In a first, IAF Embraer AEW&C aircraft carries out air-to-air refuelling

An Indian Air Force (IAF) Embraer transport aircraft with Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) function today got a major operational boost, which will allow it to prolong its surveillance missions.

The aircraft successfully carried out Air to Air Refuelling (AAR), to fly a long duration flight beyond the aircraft’s stated endurance. “It is also the first time that the AAR has been carried out on the Embraer platform,” the IAF said in a statement.


The AAR was carried out using the “probe and drogue” methodology. “This method practiced by IAF pilots requires exceptional flying skills as the receiving aircraft has to accurately insert the receptacle probe into the basket shaped drogue trailing behind the fuel tanker aircraft. During the process of Air-to-Air Refuelling both aircraft have to maintain extremely accurate flying parameters,” said the IAF.

The AEW&C system developed by the DRDO and integrated on the Brazilian made Embraer aircraft was inducted into the IAF at the Aero India-2017 in February this year. The modern system will augment the IAF’s ability to not only detect incoming aircrafts, missiles, but also drones. A key component of the system is the Active Ectronically Scanned Radar System (AESA). The system is equipped with a 240-degree coverage radars in contrast to the existing Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and Control (AWACS) systems integrated with the Russian IL-76, which provide a 360-degree coverage over a 400-km range.

Nevertheless, the indigenous AEW&C system will support the IAF in strike missions and assist ground forces in the tactical battlefield. In comparison, China has more than 20 AWACS, including the new KJ-500 ones that can track over 60 aircraft at ranges up to 470km, while Pakistan has four Swedish Saab-2000 AEW&C aircraft and four Chinese-origin ZDK-03 (KJ-200) AWACS.

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