India plans to expedite the purchase of nine new special-mission aircraft for communications jamming, signals intelligence and surveillance for its air force.
The proposal, worth around $200 million, was approved over the weekend at a meeting of the Defense Acquisition Council, the top decision-making body of India’s defense ministry, an India defense ministry official says. The defense ministry will soon issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to buy the aircraft, the official says.
The acquisition would fill airborne special-mission requirements currently serviced by a small fleet of Gulfstream III SRA electronic-intelligence (elint) jets operated by the country’s external intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW).
The Indian air force (IAF) requires seven aircraft to be hardwired for communications jamming, surveillance and target-towing missions (three with jamming equipment installed), and the other two specifically for signals-intelligence (sigint) duties.
Those expected to show interest in the IAF requirement include Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon and L-3 Communications.
The IAF’s request for information, which was issued last year, had specified that the system needed to be based on aircraft powered by twin turbofan engines with low noise and vibration levels, with a hot-and-high capability in all roles, certified for deployments at air bases up to 3,300 meters (10,000 ft.) above mean sea level.
The RFI stated that all nine aircraft be based on the same platform, with the airframer responsible for integrating and certifying mission equipment.
The air force, according to the official, may be looking for a business jet platform with an optimum cruise speed of Mach 0.75-0.80 and a minimum range of 2,500 nm. “The [sigint] system must be a futuristic, state-of-the-art system using cutting edge technologies, algorithms and software,” according to the RFI. “The system must be capable of rapid system acquisitions and data processing with a high degree of automation. The system should be capable of transmitting data to [the] ground through data links.”
The new aircraft also needs to sport microprocessor-based high-performance aerial survey camera systems with camera magazines, gyro-stabilized mounts, cockpit displays and automatic GPS-controlled photo flight systems. For the jamming role, the IAF requires aircraft to have space to accommodate up to five operators with workstations and other related equipment.