Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems


  • Indian Air Force has undergone a doctrinal shift from conventional warfare to sub-conventional warfare due to threats from proxy wars by Pakistan’s Deep State post 1990s.
  • Thus India identified key operational requirements of IAF in the aftermath of Balakot airstrike I line with the counter-proxy war strategy.
  • AWACS are one the short-term operational requirement identified by IAF.

What are AWACS?

  • Known as ‘eyes in the sky’
  • Air-borne radar systems mounted on aircrafts for scanning and surveillance.
  • With a 360-degree span, they are deployed to carry out surveillance on enemy Air Defence systems and to prepare an Air Situation Picture useful in aerial combats.

Current fleet of AWACS in IAF

  • India currently has 5 AWACS


  • AWACS procured from Israel


  • Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system indigenously developed by DRDO. (1st used in Balakot air strike)
  • Mounted on an Embraer aircraft was for the 1st time used in an aerial combat by IAF in the Balakot airstrike

Drone Fleet of India

In the backdrop on the Kargil war of 1999, India felt the need for accurate real time intelligence.

Importance of UAVs

  • UAVs can carry a diverse array of payloads for reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence gathering and target acquisition.
  • In the aftermath of the Doklam episode, it is important to keeping our borders under greater surveillance.
  • Besides with capabilities like electro-optical/Infra-Red cameras, electronic and communication intelligence gathering, UAVs can act as excellent force multipliers.
  • Thus the UAVs have evolved from being a surveillance and reconnaissance asset to hunter -killer roles.

Drone Fleet

Searcher 1 and 2

  • Israeli drone
  • Acquired in 1998


Israeli drone for deployment by armed forces


  • 1st indigenously built reusable aerial target system.
  • Pilotless drone to serve as aerial target for the training of air defence artillery weapon crews
  • Lakshya-2 is an advanced variant and has autonomous flight capability even at low level.
  • It is suitable for training of crews for operating beyond visual range (BVR) and cruise missiles


  • It is a 340-kg UAV, with endurance of 4.5 hours
  • Indigenously developed by the aeronautical development establishment (ADE).


  • Electrically powered and remotely operated wheeled vehicle
  • Designed for the task of bomb disposal.
  • Capable of being remotely controlled over a range of 500m line-of-sight (LOS) or even within buildings.


Netra is a lightweight, autonomous UAV for surveillance and reconnaissance especially useful for anti-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations.

Rustom Series

  • 3 models of RUSTOM have been built with RUSTOM 2 testing done recently in 2017.
  • The 3 models of RUSTOM include Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) category, High Altitude Long Endurance family (HALE), and Rustom H with combat capabilities. (Rustom-I, Rustom-H and Rustom-C)
  • Rustom UAVs are to be fitted with Helina missiles.

Rustom 2

  • Latest addition to the Rustom series of UAVs.
  • Medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
  • Maximum speed is about 225 kmph.
  • Endurance of more than 24 hours and it can operate up to an altitude of 35,000 feet above mean sea level.
  • The unmanned aerial vehicle is designed to carry a variety of state-of-the-art payloads weighing up to 350kg.
  • The payloads include electromagnetic intelligence (ELINT), communication intelligence (COMINT), synthetic aperture radar (SAR), maritime patrol radar (MPR), radio altimeter, transmitting and receiving antennae, and situational awareness payloads.


India’s 1st stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle


Weaponised version of Sea Guardian drones from the USA.

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Hyperspectral Imaging Program

New-age aerial surveillance project of IAF expected to be operational by 2022 involving Hyperspectral Imaging.


  • Sensors or cameras for hyperspectral imaging will be mounted on UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) which will take images in 2 wavelengths of electro-magnetic spectrum, namely visible light  and infrared
  • The images so takes will be run through ‘deep learning’ algorithms to process them into usable data.
  • The data so processed is then communicated to the IAF Air Warfare Strategy Cell.


  • New-gen aerial surveillance
  • Can perform surveillance in areas under dense tree cover along the international borders. (Due to infrared sensors)
  • Multi-sensor imaging helps to track adversary movement in day and night conditions.
  • It works effectively in all-weather conditions, be it cloud cover, dense fog or snow cover.
  • Crop monitoring, Drought monitoring, Mapping soil moisture, Mineral Prospecting etc.

Laser-based Directed Energy Weapon System

  • The laser-based weapons are the advanced directed energy weapon system that can be mounted on a truck, a vessel, used as close-in weapons on aircraft making up for the 6th generation fighters.
  • They range from low-powered tactical beam emitters to a high-energy strategic weapons system.
  • They can be used tactically to blind the enemy personnel, damage or destroy enemy’s facilities, aircraft, anti-personnel weapon systems, missiles, even space assets.


  • US Navy’s high power laser weapon systems.
  • Designed to counter unmanned aerial systems and small boats.
  • Sensors that ensures long-range ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capability
  • A counter-UAS dazzler capability: A dazzler that can obscure adversarial UAS-based ISR capabilities


  • China’s vehicle-based laser defence weapon system.
  • Usually truck-mounted, they are used to intercept aerial targets including UAVs, drones, guided bombs etc.

India’s Laser Weapon System

  • DRDO is developing a laser weapon system.
  • High-powered laser weapon of 2KW
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