New Delhi’s recent decision to avoid sole-source contracts has dealt a setback to Brazil’s Embraer, whose EMB 145 had been selected as the platform for India’s Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) development program.
Now the Indian Ministry of Defence is requiring a global competition for the intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft, a ministry official said. Other ministry sources said the tender could take four months to clear the red tape, and one to two years to make the new selection.
The tender will be offered by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which is developing the AWACS using Indian radar. DRDO picked the EMB 145, and last year the ministry granted approval.
In May, the Indian government decided to avoid single-vendor situations in foreign defense purchases after allegations that South Africa’s Denel was involved in kickbacks. Denel’s bid to supply wheeled 155mm self-propelled guns, under negotiation for four years, was canceled.
DRDO officials already have made three trips to Brazil to gather engineering data for the AWACS, said one agency scientist.
The planned construction of three AWACS planes, based on the EMB 145, was about $450 million, he said. The new tender would delay and increase the cost of the program, he said.
The aircraft must be able to carry about 3,000 kilograms, the scientist said. The primary and secondary radar, which will be mounted above the fuselage, and their associated electronics and support equipment weigh about 1,000 kilograms total, he said. This would leave 2,000 kilograms for the crew, operator workstations and other support systems.
The EMB 145 meets these needs, he said.
Still, DRDO engineers asked Embraer to modify the planes in several ways, including mounting radar pylons on the fuselage, strengthening bulkheads and improving cooling systems.
DRDO was already working on designing the antenna array and its thermal management system, the fuselage-mounted electronics, and cable harnesses and mission systems, said the DRDO scientist.
The AWACS is intended to fly for six to 10 hours, and up to 35,000 feet. The primary radar will be able to look for 2-square-meter targets up to 300 kilometers away.
Embraer executives were unavailable for comment.
In another single-vendor casualty last month, the Defence Ministry scrapped a long-pending $114 million program with France’s Thales to buy and produce under license 19 Low Level Transportable Radar systems for the Air Force. Thales was the only contender in the 2004 technical trials.