DRDO is currently developing an enhanced variant of its 'NETRA' AEW&C system (MK-II) mounted on a larger airborne platform. The system shall provide enhanced situational awareness through increased performance in the mission parameters taking advantage of the larger size of the aircraft. The project is estimated to cost around ₹11,000 crore.

Images of the upcoming AWACS being developed by the Centre of Airborne Systems (CABS) a wing of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory have appeared on Twitter.

The model of the new AWACS has a 240 degree radar similar to the ‘NETRA’ early warning system developed by the CABS-DRDO. It will also have a nose mounted active electronically scanning array (AESA) radar, the chopped off nose in the model seems to suggest.

Last December, India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) okayed the development of six new AWACS planes to be built by the DRDO and based on modified Airbus A321 jets sourced from Air India. The NETRA early warning system was inducted only in 2017 and since then indigenous AWACS systems developments have been quite rapid. Besides the NETRA, the Indian air force (IAF) has the Israeli Phalcon system mounted on an Russian Il-76 platform.

Salient Features of New Platform

Enhanced Radar, IFF, ELINT and COMINT capabilities at par with similar systems in the international markets

Enhanced communication technologies catering for higher data rates and encryption capabilities and integration with India's Integrated Command & Control Centre (IACCS)

State-of-the-Art multi sensor data fusion capable of identifying and classifying hostile airborne systems and assessing accurate threat perception. Included in the MK-II version will be DRDO’s latest AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar that utilize Gallium Nitride technology that offers improved detection and tracking performance and better cooling of the main radar unit

The aircraft will also be equipped with DRDO developed synthetic aperture radar (SAR) as a secondary sensor to create high-resolution images that will also be used for imaging stationary ships and small vessels, coastal and overland surveillance

12 mission operator stations capable of carrying our command and control operations in air to neutralize enemy forces

Enhanced endurance (> 7 hours) and altitude ( > 36,000 feet)