Though no request for proposal has yet been drafted, Northrop Grumman and Embraer are battling it out to provide up to six airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft for the Indian Navy.
The aircraft is to use various Indian sensors and systems, including a Defense Development and Research Organization (DRDO)-designated last-generation AEW radar.
Northrop is offering the Hawkeye 2000 AEW aircraft; Embraer, the ERJ 145 AEW&C plane.
“Embraer’s scope will be to supply the modified ERJ 145 platform and to support the DRDO effort with its expertise in AEW&C systems development,” said Sergio Ballato Alves, vice president, International Business, Defense and Government Market, Asia Pacific, Embraer.
Embraer has three intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems: the EMB145 Airborne Ground Surveillance, ERJ 145 Maritime Patrol and the EMB 145 AEW&C aircraft.
It sold five Legacy 600 business jets, which are VIP transports based on the ERJ 145, to India in 2003: four to the Indian Air Force and one to the Border Security Forces.
Embraer is also bidding the Legacy 600 for a multi-mission aircraft tender for nine aircraft for aerial survey, target tow and transport.
“The Indian government is currently analyzing the submitted proposals from 2006,” said Ballato Alves.
The Indian Navy flies the Russian-made Ka-31 Helix-B helicopter with E-801M Oko (Eye) airborne electronic radar, which can track 20 targets out to 150 kilometers. , In 2004, the Indian Air Force ordered three Israel Aircraft Industries Phalcon AEW systems to be outfitted on Russian Il-76MD Candid aircraft for $1.1 billion. Delivery is expected this year.
India also is spending $400 million to revive its indigenous AEW program. The project was terminated in 1999 when the HS-748’s rotodome collapsed during flight-testing and crashed, killing three crew members. The next version is expected to drop the rotodome in favor of a phased array radar.
India’s rival Pakistan ordered six Saab 2000 equipped with Erieye AEW systems from Sweden for $1 billion for its Air Force in early 2006. Pakistan and China have also signed an agreement to jointly develop an AEW aircraft, but the program has been fraught with problems, including an air crash that killed the entire Chinese design team last year.
Northrop Grumman has been talking with the Indian Navy since the requirement was proposed three years ago.
“We originally proposed the E-2 for carrier operations, but the Indian Navy declined because they did not have a catapult capability, and weight would have to have been cut,” said Tom Trudell, Northrop’s manager of international business development for AEW & BMC2 Programs. “They didn’t want to give up capabilities, so we moved to shore-based operations with a wet wing for added onboard fuel.”
The Hawkeye 2000 that Northrop Grumman is proposing will likely, though, not be the AEW plane that the Indian Navy buys. The company is now developing the Advanced Hawkeye, and it is likely that the Indians will want the added capabilities of that platform’s sensors, whether it is in the E-2 or a competing platform. First flight of Advanced Hawkeye is planned for later this year.
“We need proper export authorization to tell the Indians about it, even unclassified,” said John Beaulieu, business development manager for the Naval Air Systems Command, E-2 Program Office, who is here in Bangalore to help address the Indian requirement. “We expect export authorization by July, and then we will discuss it with the Indians.”
With the Advanced Hawkeye on the horizon, it is clear that the Indians will be looking for the same capabilities that the U.S. Navy will be acquiring, such as net-centric functions and maritime domain surveillance that includes both surface and air.
Offsets will also be part of any AEW deal between the Indians and their suitors. Trudell said that Northrop Grumman expects to sign an agreement in Bangalore with an unnamed Indian company for one such offset deal related to AEW.
“We don’t have a foothold here, so we have to start somewhere,” said Trudell. “A small offset team is at the show this week, and we also expect to open a Delhi office soon.”