Army to buy copter-borne early warning systems

In a first that will give a major boost to the Army's aviation wing, India is planning to procure helicopter-borne early warning systems for the land force. The final specifications for the system are being chalked out, following which a tender process will be initiated this year.

The new system could be fitted on board the Army's existing Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and will give formation commanders an insight into enemy territory while serving as warning systems for approaching aircraft and armoured units.

Sources said the Army is in the final stages of ordering the new system and is considering involving the Indian private sector in the programme. The other option is to rope in Defence Public Sector Unit, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), to design and develop the system.

The project, which would involve developing a new system in collaboration with a foreign partner, can be lucrative for the Indian defence industry, as the final order would be for a large number of the early warning systems.

The new systems would give a fillip to the Army's aviation wing that has seen a steady growth in the past few years. Starting with the small Chetak/Cheetah single-engine choppers, Army aviation is now operating the ALH and is set to order a new fleet of light attack helicopters that are being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The early warning systems would be integrated with attack helicopter squadrons that the Army plans to induct in coming years and will act as valuable force multipliers.

While the Air Force does operate early warning systems, it does not have any such helicopter-borne systems that are vital for close-in, ground combat situations where enemy armour and rotary wing aircraft operate.

Meanwhile, the Army recently won a tussle with the Air Force on control over attack helicopter squadrons. Traditionally operated by the Air Force, the Army has them under its operational control and has now been selected for operating them also as is the norm world over.

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