Another milestone in the military cooperation between Israel and India was noted Monday, as the first Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) Phalcon landed in western India's Jamnagar Airbase, thus making the Asian country the first to have an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft.
The Phalcon is based on Russian-made Ilyushin-76 planes, and is fitted with various IAI electronic systems. The deal, signed in March 2004, amounted to $1.1 billion, making it the biggest of its kind at the time.
New Delhi's Hindustan Times reported that the Phalcon arrived 18 months later than scheduled, citing technical difficulties as the cause. The paper quoted military sources as saying that two additional Phalcon were to arrive in India by mid 2010.
Landing in Jamnagar Airbase (Photo: AP)
The report sang the praises of the Phalcon's intelligence gathering capabilities, saying it can lock onto 60 different targets across 250 miles. The new plane, the Hindustan Times said, will grant India aerial supremacy in the region.
China was intended to be the original buyer in the Phalcon deal, signed in the 1990s, but the purchase was called off after the United States intervened and demanded the deal be annulled. Washington said that selling the system to Beijing would contribute to its aggressiveness and put the lives of American pilots operating in south Asia at risk, particularly if the US would find itself defending Taiwan against a Chinese onslaught.
Jerusalem complied with the US demand, and the deal was shelved.
Several years later India expressed an interest in a similar purchase, and the sale went forward without US objection.
The Israeli Aerospace Industries has since developed more sophisticated systems than those mounted on the Phalcon , and according to the Indian media, more arms deals may be underway.