The IAF's ISTAR aircraft called the Sentinel will be supplied by Raytheon of the US on a Gulfstream platform

India had made an official request to purchase two ISTAR aircraft under a government-to-government deal. The move came within a month of U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis’ visit to India in October 2017.

A formal letter of request was sent to the U.S. Defence Department expressing intent to procure two intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance aircraft via the Foreign Military Sales program.

A MoD official had indicated that “This is a priority program, as many of the [Indian Air Force’s] surveillance programs have been delayed.”

The ISTAR aircraft is a critical requirement and will be operated by the Air Force and the deal is estimated to cost $1 billion.

The purchase of two ISTAR aircraft was put on hold due to internal wrangling between the Indian Air Force and the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO). The MoD then constituted a joint committee comprising of scientists from the DRDO, officials from the Air Force, and MoD officials. The technical evaluation of the system was completed by the joint MoD committee. The aircraft acquisition is to be now expedited on a fast track basis. The committee finalised the mission software and critical equipment for the ISTAR aircraft.

India-specific ISTAR aircraft for the Air Force will be equipped with active electronically scanned array radar that can scan more than a 30,000-kilometre area in a minute, and analyse data and identify the target in 10 to 15 minutes.

The service intends to operate ISTAR aircraft as its central airborne platform for analytical, communications and sensor-related tasks to achieve real-time targeting capability in the battlefield. The aircraft will eventually be networked with the service’s indigenous air command-and-control system, or IACCS.

Further, the ISTAR will be used against ground targets and for battlefield management, whereas the airborne warning and control system, or AWACS, used by the service are meant for air defence and aerial targets. The service also employs Aerostat radar systems, which are mini versions of the AWACS and do not help in ground target acquisition.

The IACCS is designed and built on the lines of NATO’s air command-and-control system, which handles air traffic control, surveillance, air mission control, airspace management and force management functions.

IDN at Aero India 2019