New Delhi, May 16: After the Russians and the Americans, with whom the Indian armed forces have issues over delays or conditions attached to their military equipment, it is now the turn of Israel to slip behind schedule for the delivery of high-tech hardware for the Indian Air Force.
A source in the Indian Air Force has confirmed that the delivery of the first Phalcon will be delayed. It was expected in September but is now more likely to reach India only at the end of the first quarter of 2009, disrupting the Indian Air Forces force-building plans.
Israel, which is Indias second largest supplier of military equipment, has told the Indian Air Force that it will not be able to deliver the Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems — command centres in the sky — by September this year when the first of the three aircraft was due. It has told India that its delivery of two Aerostat radars — surveillance equipment on a balloon tethered to a radar station on the ground — will also be delayed.
This is the second time that the delivery schedule of the Phalcons has been disrupted. The original schedule envisaged the delivery of the first aircraft in November 2007, the second in August 2008 and the third in the second half of 2009.
The delays mean that the air force will now have to rework its timetable of building up force levels for network-centric battle management platforms.
Each of the Phalcons would have a crew of 18. A special squadron that was being raised by the IAFs central command now has to wait for its training to begin.
The delays, however, have not dissuaded the air force from working through a proposal to ask for three more Phalcons in a follow-on order estimated at $2 billion.
Last year, Israeli media reported that the Phalcon deal with India was not clean as a whistle and investigators were probing the involvement of arms agents.
The Phalcons were contracted in 2004 for $1.1 billion following a tripartite understanding between India, Uzbekistan — which has made the aircraft (Ilyushin 76) on which the equipment is being mounted — and Israel.
The Phalcons, with a surveillance range of 500km designed to allow the air force to see deep into enemy territory and communicate orders to its own aircraft, are to be based in Agra, which is the main base for the air forces transport aircraft in the north and alternatively in Chandigarh and Bareilly.
Air headquarters understands that Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), which is assembling the Phalcon and mounting it on the IL-76 aircraft, is sourcing equipment from manufacturers in different countries. The sourcing has not been co-ordinated enough for IAI to keep to the delivery schedule.
The aircraft will have a phased array radar mounted on a stationary radome — a circular piece of equipment mounted on the craft — made by US firm Raytheon.
There will also be 20-inch active matrix display screens from a Belgian firm and electronic counter counter measure (ECCM) equipment from Israels Elbit, apart from French and Indian-origin components.
The air force has also been told that the delivery of the two Aerostat radars as a follow-up to an earlier order would also be delayed.