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CAG blows holes in DRDO’s early warning planes

After a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into corruption allegations, the Comptroller and Auditor General has also cast a shadow on an indigenous program for Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system ordered by the Air Force.

In a detailed report, the CAG has stated that the project is yet to be fully realised even though it was conceived in 2002, leaving gaps in the IAF’s air-surveillance capability.

The auditor has said that operational requirements specified by the IAF were not met and added that there has been a 70% time overrun.

The central auditor also said selecting the Embraer aircraft as the platform created design constraints and caused the delays. It may be recalled that the CBI is probing allegations that kickbacks were paid in the Embraer aircraft deal that DRDO had struck with the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer in 2008.

The AEW&C is an airborne surveillance system which detects incoming hostile fighters, cruise missiles and drones much before ground based radars.

It also detects enemy troops build-ups, warships and directs friendly fighter jets during combat. The project for the indigenous development of the AEW&C of the IAF was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in October 2004 at a cost of `1,800 cr. The CAG, however, said that the project’s total cost up till August 2017 was `2,425 crore.

Under the project, two AEW&C were to be supplied to the IAF. The Bangalorebased Centre of Air Borne Systems (CABS) of the DRDO was the nodal agency for developing the system.

The CAG says that the IAF had accepted the first AEW&C in February 2017. “However, out of the 18 operational requirements specified by the IAF, eight parameters could not be fully achieved by the AEW&C,” said the CAG report.

Some of these operational requirements are the primary surveillance radar for scanning the airspace to detect targets, the secondary radar to identify friends and foes, and the self protection suite to warn about incoming weapons. The IAF insisted that the eight parameters should be met in the second aircraft. The DRDO agreed to meet five of them, while arguing that the remaining three would not impact operations.

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