Air India transfers 4 Airbus A321s to DRDO and IAF for Netra Mk2 AEWCS project

The Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Air Force are working to make an Airborne Early Warning and Control System on (AEWCS) legacy Air India Airbus A321 aircraft.

These systems will be called Netra-Mk2 where the aircraft will be legacy Air India aircraft and antenna array units will be supplied by DRDO’s Lab Center For Airborne Systems (LCFAS).

The modified aircraft are now birthed at Hindon airport.

DRDO and IAF acquired six aircraft and the first aircraft was already delivered in 2021. Four more aircraft were delivered by DRDO in the last couple of months, which are currently parked at Hindon airport.

According to the plan, the six will be taken from the Air India fleet, which means they will be A-319s and A-321 variants.

The original plan, which had also got an AON clearance, was to procure two larger A-330 jets, which were then to be modified and fitted with the AEW&C systems.

Air India transfers 4 Airbus A321s to DRDO and IAF for the Netra Mk2 AEWCS project

However, now the six Airbus aircraft will be modified and the indigenous Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar will be mounted on them.

IAF received Two A321 last month and after the conclusion of talks with the Airbus, it will soon be ferried to the Lagardère facility in Toulouse, France where it will undergo structural modifications so that Primary long-range multi-mode radar can be installed in a 10 mt composite dorsal unit that is designed by LRDE.

A319/321 will also get an additional Auxiliary Power Unit to power the radar systems. DRDO’s Bengaluru-based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) is developing upgraded Primary and secondary radar for the system that will have enhanced detection and tracking range than its predecessor (Netra Mk1).

A319/321 will also get an additional Auxiliary Power Unit to power the radar systems.

In the latest tender document issued by the DRDO more visible structural changes to the aircraft seems to be much more radical than what was originally planned.

Changes visible are that the beyond-line-of-sight datalinks, satellite communication systems Radome have been moved behind and now it is close to the tail section and it seems plans to have multimode airborne Maritime surveillance Radar to act as an effective force-multiplier solution for operational missions in the maritime theatre seems to have been dropped.

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