New Delhi (AFP) May 25, 2009
India on Monday took delivery of its first Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane, as part of a deal with Israel worth more than one billion dollars, officials said.
The delivery is seen as part of India's quest for air dominance over arch rival Pakistan as well as a milestone in growing military ties with Israel.
"India is one of the few countries to have inducted the AWACS in their air forces," Indian air force spokesman wing commander T.K. Singha said as the AWACS plane escorted by fighter jets landed at an airbase in western India.
The plane equipped with the sophisticated Phalcon early warning radar surveillance system is the first of three units that Israel Aerospace Industries agreed to sell to India as part of a 2004 deal.
"The remaining two are expected to be inducted into the Indian air force by 2010," Singha said.
The AWACS involves mounting surveillance equipment on the top of Russian Ilyushin-76 aircraft.
The Phalcon AWACS can simultaneously track nearly 250 flying objects within a radius of 800 kilometres (500 miles) and also has a "look-down" capability allowing it to monitor movements on the ground or at sea, officials say.
The planes will especially be used to reinforce maritime security in the wake of last year's Mumbai attacks, in which 165 people were killed, the air force official said. The attackers reached the Indian financial hub by sea.
The planes will also provide a deterrent to any threat from China on India's eastern frontier, defence officials say.
Israel replaced France in 2007 as India's second-largest arms supplier after Russia and is likely to grab the number one slot through a vast array of defence agreements it has already signed with New Delhi.
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