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India to acquire AWACS

NEW DELHI, May 11 – India is expected to acquire its first Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) next week, officials said Monday, crowning its drive to achieve air dominance over rival Pakistan.

The delivery by Israel of the sophisticated Phalcon early warning radar surveillance system, set for May 20, will also mark another milestone in growing military ties with the Jewish state.

The AWACS "will be deployed straight away," air force spokesman T.K. Singha told AFP.

The AWACS is the first of three units that Israel Aerospace Industries agreed to sell to India as part of a 2004 deal involving India, Israel and Russia. The deal with Israel was worth 1.1 billion dollars.

The AWACS involves the mounting of surveillance equipment on the top of Russian Ilyushin-76 aircraft.

Receipt of the AWACS will also provide a deterrent to any threat from China on India’s eastern frontier, defence officials say.

The delivery of the remaining two AWACS is likely to be completed by the end of 2011, other government officials said.

Senior Indian air force officials said the first Phalcon will be deployed in the northern city of Agra, which is also home to India’s mainstay Ilyushin military transport aircraft fleet.

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"Agra suits us best because an AWACS taking off from that sector will have our western borders (with Pakistan) on its radar within minutes," an air force official said.

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 AWACS will especially be used to reinforce maritime security in the wake of the attacks last November on India’s financial hub Mumbai, which killed 165 people, the air force official said. The attackers reached Mumbai by sea.

India will be the second Asian country after China to acquire the AWACS.

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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