India’s second largest military supplier Israel, has brought to Aero India 2009 their new Conformal Airborne Early Warning & Control (CAEW) aircraft. Using the Gulfstream 550 (G550)platform, the aircraft is capable of multiple roles including, Airborne Early Warning, Air Situation Picture Generation and Air Combat Command and Control.
Developed by ELTA, a subsidiary of Israeli Aircraft Industries, the CAEW is the third generation of Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system built by the company since the 1980s. The platform carries an AESA radar & Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), Electronic Support Measures (ESM), an integrated Self Protection System (SPS) and a communications suite for Network Centric Operations (NCOs).
Israel plans to replace its older such Special Mission Aircraft with the G550 based CAEW. Israel already has two of these aircraft in operation.
So how is the CAEW different from the IL-76 platform based Phalcon system, of which three units are being purchased by India? Shalom Revivo, Joint Director at Israeli Aircraft Industries draws a whole list of distinctions. “The IL-76 is obviously a much larger aircraft; so many more systems could be placed in it. There is room to add additional technology. But the G550 is so tightly packed with systems that it would be difficult to add more to it. On the other hand, the G550 is more aerodynamic and so, more useful in a combat command situation,” he says, adding, “The G550 doesn’t have rotating radar. Instead the radar is all around the aircraft.”
Revivo also raises the issue of mid-air refuelling. “The IL-76 platform can be refuelled in the air. We’re still working on it with the G550. That’s the next stage of development,” says he, adding, “India’s huge size makes the IL-76 more appropriate, even though both have similar range.”
Another difference is the passenger capacity. While the G550 carries six personnel, the IL-76 can carry considerably more. Indian Air Force (IAF) veteran Air Marshal Harish Masand says, “This allows it to be used as a complete command in the air.” Revivo agrees, saying, “The IL-76 is a strategic aircraft,” adding, “Israel’s size is such that the G550 is optimum for its purposes.”