An IAF Phalcon AWACS aircraft. India is the first country in South Asia to own an AWACS.

India’s Cabinet is set to approve next week a $1 billion deal to purchase two Israeli Phalcon AWACS

Sixteen years ago, India purchased from Israel three Phalcon AWACS developed by Israel Aerospace Industries. The $1.1 billion deal was inked in 2004 and the aircraft delivered in 2009 and 2011. Next week, the Indian Cabinet is expected to approve another such deal, valued at around $1 billion.

The Israeli airborne warning and control system is mounted on Russian-origin Illyushin-76 transport aircraft. Experts call the plane an eye in the sky because of its surveillance capabilities for tracking enemy aircraft, hostile missiles, drones and troops on the ground.

The megadeal was previously derailed several times due to high costs. Now it seems that India is determined to go through with the purchase. Indian newspapers reported that the Cabinet Committee on Security is set to give its final nod to the deal after extensive inter-ministerial consultations. With tensions vis-à-vis China and Pakistan growing high, India is interested in acquiring two AWACS, to be delivered in three to four years. This would be a significant boon to Israel’s aeronautic and security industries, as Israeli defence exports were $7.2 billion in 2019, down from more than $9.3 billion in 2017.

According to the report, the top three customers of Israeli arms in the past year were India, Azerbaijan and Vietnam. In fact, for a few years now, India has been the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment, and Israel is the second-largest defence supplier to India after Russia. Israel has sold to India in recent years warships, missiles, electro-optic equipment and more.

The defence aspect is a major element in Israel-India bilateral ties, but by far not the only one. In recent years, India has been one of Israel's top 10 trade partners.