by October 12, 2002 0 comments



While each force, be it the Army, Navy or Air Force, independently performs its role efficiently and effectively, a close coordination between them is the key for success. Operations like the Gulf war between America and Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan by America have proved that ‘Air Superiority’ is a pre-requisite for the successful conduct of warfare. Air superiority implies the advance of our forces into enemy territory without the fear of being attacked by the enemy’s air force. Conversely, to prevent the enemy from attacking our forces in our territory from the air, we need to have total control over our air space. Whether it is for defense or offense, the control of air space is a pre-requisite for the successful conduct of operations.

Radar warning
The radar detects the presence of an aircraft in space. Its detection range is limited to the ‘line of sight’. A ground-based radar can pick up a low flying target, say 100 mtrs, at a range of approximately 45 kms. One limitation of the ground radar, therefore, is that it cannot pick up low-flying aircraft below a certain height and beyond a certain range. This pick up range can, however, be enhanced if the radar is mounted in an aircraft. An airborne radar flying at a height of 30,000 ft can pick up an aircraft at a range of approximately 400 kms almost at the ground level. For a precise estimation of the pick up range other parameters, like radar cross-section of the target, transmitted power of the radar and sensitivity of the radar receiver, are needed. 

A radar system mounted on an aircraft and required to provide only early warning of any intruding aircraft or the position of our own aircraft flying low is called AEW (Airborne Early Warning System). The interception is carried out from the ground. When the radar is mounted on the aircraft and interception is also carried out from the aircraft itself, the system is called Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS). Only few counties namely the US, erstwhile USSR and Sweden have their own AWACS. Few examples of AWACS are USA’s E2C, E3A earlier on Boeing 707 platform and now on Boeing 767 platform and Russia’s ‘MOSS’ A-50 on IL-76 platform. The UK developed an AWACS code named ‘NIMROD’ which was not successful. While Sweden defends its air space by its own AWACS, other countries like the UK, France, Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia have procured AWACS from the US. 

Electronic warfare
Modern weapon systems depend largely on the use of electromagnetic radiations for interconnecting their various elements. An inherent weakness of these radiations is that they are liable to detection and interference. To disrupt or reduce the efficacy of these systems, the best way, therefore, is to interfere with them. The actions involving the use of electromagnetic energy to determine, exploit, reduce or prevent hostile use of the enemy’s electromagnetic spectrum and actions, which retain the friendly use of our own electromagnetic spectrum, are called electronic warfare. This includes all forms of electromagnetic energy, like radio, radar, infrared optical systems and lasers. Radiation produced by nuclear weapons is, however, usually classified as nuclear effects and not electronic warfare.

The objective of electronic warfare is, therefore, to deny the enemy the successful use of its weapon systems by interfering with its electromagnetic radiations while successfully making use of its own weapon system. Electronic warfare must be planned and executed as an integral part of military operations and must be integrated into the operational command structure.

The Indian Dream

Not every country can build an AWACS. Nor can everyone buy one. Both money and political considerations also decide who can buy one. Pakistan, for example, was refused by the US in the early eighties. India embarked on the development of its own AWACS in 1985 (codenamed Guardian, and subsequently christened Airawat, after Indra’s elephant). The initial test system was built on the Avro HS 748 aircraft. Two prototypes were built, and about 90% of the design was apparently complete. People flying into the Bangalore could see this aircraft parked near the DRDO’s facilities at the airport. On January 11, 1999, a prototype crashed in Tamil Nadu during a test flight killing all the eight members–scientists and engineers on board, virtually bringing the program to an end.

The Indian Air Force needs AWACS urgently because of the hostile and terrorist activities from across the border. The latest is that Israeli Phalcon systems mounted on Russian IL-76TD aircraft and running Indian software (to be integrated by Russia’s Beriev Aircraft Company) will be inducted into the Indian Air Force by 2005.

Krishna Kumar

To be able to interfere with the enemy’s weapon system, it is necessary to acquire the complete knowledge of the enemy’s electromagnetic transmissions. This activity is called Electronic Support Measure or ESM. It involves actions taken to search for, intercept, locate, record and analyze radiated electromagnetic energy for the purpose of exploiting such radiations in support of military operations. Thus ESM provides a source of electronic warfare information required to conduct electronic countermeasures, electronic counter-counter measures, threat detection, warning, avoidance, target acquisition and homing.

Actions taken to prevent or reduce the enemy’s effective use of the electronic spectrum is called Electronic Counter Measures (ECM). Actions taken to ensure the friendly effective use of the electromagnetic spectrum despite the enemy’s use of electronic warfare is termed Electronic Counter-Counter Measures
(ECCM).

Modern AWACS also possess electronic warfare capability. The radar system has ECCM capability. ESM equipment on board collects electronic intelligence and the ECM equipment protects the AWACS platform. 

Air Marshal RC Bajpai, PVSM, AVSM, retired as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Maintenance Command, IAF in 1996.
He has served as Chief Program Director, Airborne Surveillance, Warning and Control Organisation, Ministry of 
Defence. He has a Ph.D in  Electronics Warfare from IIT, Delhi

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