The Indian Air Force (IAF)'s newest force-multiplier, the first of three 'Phalcon' Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft (Airborne Warning And Control System and Airborne Early Warning & Control are interchangeable terms), landed quietly in New Delhi on January 11, 2009. Confirming this, Indian media said that the aircraft made a brief stop at Delhi's Palam Airport from Israel, where it was inspected by Indian Air Chief, ACM Fali Major before heading out to Agra. The induction of the Phalcon comes as a tremendous boost in the present standoff between Pakistan and India. "It can help monitor the military build-up, troop and aircraft movements nearly 200 km inside Pakistan while flying nearly 100 km inside your own territory," says Air Marshal A K Gel (retired). The only platforms offering such a capability, albeit a limited one, are the spy planes of the RAW's Aviation Research Centre and the IAF's fleet of Israeli-built Heron and Searcher-II drones. IAF AEW&C System can achieve this using its Israeli-built AEW mission suite called the Phalcon, mounted on a Russian-built IL-76 transport aircraft. The system is used for tactical surveillance of airborne and surface targets and intelligence gathering to a radius of over 400 km. The solid-state phased array Elta EL/M-2075 radar is mounted on a radome above the fuselage. The electronically steered beam provides 360 degree coverage around the aircraft and it carries air force personnel on board to analyse the data and steer fighter aircraft. The aircraft are to form part of a new AEW squadron # 50 based in the 2,700-acre Agra air base, which already houses an IL-76 transport squadron and a squadron of IL-78 MKI air-to-air refueler aircraft will also be home to the AWACS that will enhance the air defence and assault tactics of IAF. Agra's existing runway length of 9,000 feet at the base has been extended to 10,500 feet and work is on for setting up three new hangars. The avionics laboratory at the station, which already handles avionics systems of the existing IL-76 and IL-78 MKI aircraft, is also readying to accommodate the calibration and the integration processes of the new radar system. A Transport Aircraft Operations Tactics Development Cell (TAOTDC), the top gun school of transport aircraft in India, is also getting ready for future courses considering the induction of the AWACS, according to Indian media. In March 2004, Israel was contracted to supply three Phalcon airborne warning and control systems to be mated with Ilyushin-76 heavy military transport aircraft. The deliveries were originally intended to commence in November 2007, but were delayed to the end of 2008 and further to February 2009. The second and third ones are now expected in September 2009 and April 2010. In November 2008 India, reportedly may have contracted for a fourth Il-76 mounted Phalcon AWACS system from Israel, opting for three more later. The faltering deal has been plagued by allegations of mismanaged negotiations and overpayment. The AWAC sale was heavily criticised by Major General (retd) Mrinal Suman, who says that New Delhi chose to shell out a hefty $1.1 billion for the AWACS, despite the fact that Israel had planned to sell the same planes to Beijing for a mere $358 million (later blocked by USA). A number of corrupt individuals have also been linked to the purchase of various Israeli armaments, including the Phalcon. Indian CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is currently investigating kickbacks related to the Rupees 1,160-crore Barak-I anti-missile defence system contract. Former Defence Minister George Fernandes and infamous arms dealer Suresh Nanda have reportedly been implicated in the latest arms scandal. It should be noted that Fernandes was forced to resign his position due to his involvement in a number of tainted defence deals, including the unethical procurement of BAE's hawk trainer. On July 03, 2008, India has signed a $210-million deal with Brazil to acquire three Embraer 145 jets and jointly develop an Airborne Early Warning System for IAF. While the radar and other sub-systems of the Early Warning System will be developed by DRDO, Brazil will provide the jets that will help integrate the system onto the aircraft. The Brazilian Embraer aircraft, has not found much favour with the IAF, as the jet does not have a flight endurance of 10 hours and cannot cruise at altitudes above 40,000 feet. Footnote: Pakistan has announced a $278 million deal with the People's Republic of China for the purchase of AWACS, in addition to the acquisition of 5 Saab 2000 turboprop ERIEYE aircraft. The writer is a political and defence secretary