Phalcon Sale to India: Regional and Strategic
Alok Kumar Gupta*
India and Israel signed their biggest ever bilateral
defence deal on March 05, 2004. Earlier the Israeli security cabinet
headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had approved the deal clearing
the decks for the sale of three Phalcon Advanced Airborne Warning
and Control Systems (AWACS) worth US $1.1 billion to India. The
final terms for the deal were agreed upon during the discussions in
December 2003 when Israeli Defence Ministry Director, Gen. Amos
Yaron, had visited New Delhi. The final technical details were being
worked out in Israel. As reported Israel Aircraft Industries will
receive an advance payment of some US $350 million after the deal is
signed. According to a report on Israeli radio the payment for the
three Phalcon systems is to be spread over a number of years.
The Weapon System
Under the AWACS deal, the Israeli Phalcon radar is to
be mounted and integrated on the Russian-designed IL-76 plane made
by Beriyev Aircraft Design Bureau, a unit of Irkut Aerospace
Corporation. Irkut also produces Sukhoi Su-30MKI war planes for
India. The Indian Air Force had tried Russian A-50 AWACS planes
during wargames a few years ago, but later decided to go for the
Israeli Phalcon mounted on the IL-76 platform with Russian control
The Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) developed the Phalcon weapons system
both for the Israeli defence forces and for export. The world’s
most advanced AEWC&C system, the PHALCON, was developed and
produced by ELTA using Active Phased Array Electronic Scanning
Technology rather than a mechanically rotating antenna (rotodome)
used by current AWACS systems, giving PHALCON greater operational
flexibility and performance by several orders of magnitude.
The Phalcon AEW&C aircraft is based on four sensors: phased-array
radar, phased-array IFF, ESM/ELINT and CSM/COMINT. A unique fusion
technology continuously cross-relates the data gathered by all
sensors. When one of the sensors reports a detection, the system
automatically initiates an active search of the complementary
The AWE&C phased
array radar replaces the conventional rotodome radar. It is
mounted either on the aircraft fuselage or on top of the
aircraft inside a stationary dome, providing full 360°
coverage. This electronically steered beam radar delivers a
tremendous advantage over mechanical rotating antenna, as it
supports the tracking of high maneuvering targets. The radar can
detect even low flying objects from distances of hundreds of
kilometers, day and night, under all weather conditions.
Verification beams sent at specific, individual, newly detected
targets eliminate false alarms. Moreover, track initiation is
achieved in 2 to 4 seconds as compared to 20 to 40 seconds with
a rotodome radar.
The IFF system employs
solid-state phased array technology to perform interrogation,
decoding, target detection and tracking. A monopulse technique
is used to implement azimuth measurement. The IFF data is
automatically correlated with the phased array radar.
The ESM/ELINT system
receives, analyzes and locates radar signals, covering 360o.
It combines high sensitivity with high probability of intercept,
and achieves excellent accuracy in bearing measurement. The
system uses narrow-band super-heterodyne receivers and wide-band
instantaneous frequency measurement (IFM) techniques to provide
very high accuracy and probability of intercept of airborne and
surface emitters. Very high bearing accuracy for all received
signals is achieved through Differential Time of Arrival (DTOA)
measurements. The system also collects and analyzes ELINT data.
The PHALCON’s CSM/COMINT
receives in UHF, VHF and HF bands, rapidly searching for
airborne, ship borne or ground communications signals of
interest. Selected radio nets can be monitored for signal
activity. A DF capability locates targets. Detected signals can
be assigned to monitoring receivers instantaneously. The system
makes extensive use of computers to reduce the load on
The Phalcon system can be installed on a variety of platforms, such as the
Boeing 707, Boeing 767, Boeing 747, Airbus and C-130. This system
has already been sold to Chile, where it is designated as the
In early 2002, Israel had postponed the Phalcon sale
under pressure from the US, which cited tensions between India and
Pakistan. However, later Washington gave its approval without any conditions or limitations. The U.S.
vetoed the deal to India because it incorporates some U.S.
Earlier in July 2000, the Clinton administration had
blocked a proposed sale of one Phalcon system to China, on the
ground that it would have upset the military balance in the Taiwan
Straits. This led to China cancelling many other defence contracts
with Israel. China had partly paid for the system, and the U.S. veto
set off a diplomatic crisis and a costly legal battle between Israel
and China over compensation due to Beijing for the cancelled
contract. Later, Israel
reached an agreement to compensate China and relations have since
Therefore, the U.S. has wielded an effective veto
over its transfer to other countries because it is understood to
incorporate some U.S. technology. According to reported Pentagon
sources, Israel coordinates its military sales with the U.S. because
of the close cooperation between the two nations’ military
industries that often share technological know-how.
However, the US veto to ban the sale of Phalcon to
India was relaxed after a visit of an Indian delegation to US. The
Indian defence delegation led by Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad
visited Washington and the confirmation of the Bush
administration’s consent for the sale came less than a week after
the visit. Prasad and his officials, who went to US in this
connection with the meeting of the US–India Defence Policy Group,
met several Bush administration officials, including Defence
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard Myers. The
clearance of the deal by US boosted the confidence and spirit of
Indian defence planners and India is now also expecting the U.S. to
give a go-ahead to buy the Arrow anti-missile system, which has been
developed jointly by the U.S. and Israel.
Airborne Early Warning, Command and Control (AEWC&C) systems play a
major role on the modern battlefield by providing real-time
intelligence and command and control needed to achieve and maintain
air superiority over the combat area and to enable surveillance of
borders in peacetime.
The Phalcon is an Israeli-developed long-range radar
warning and control system carried in a Russian Ilyushin-76 cargo
plane and it is similar to the AWACS airborne command and control
system long in service in the U.S. Air Force. The radar is expected to
extend the range of the Indian Air Force, enabling very long-range
identification of targets and control over weapons aimed at them.
According to newspaper reports, the U.S. administration’s change in
policy on Israeli weapons sales to India was the result of American
interest in “maintaining a stable balance of power in the Indian
subcontinent where it has been recently pushing for talks between
India and Pakistan.” However, an
offshoot of the deal is the strategic relationship developed by
Israel and India while negotiating the deal, which marks Israel as
an important arms supplier to India.
International Arms Trade and Israel
Israel is emerging as a major arms supplier in the World. Despite its
economic woes, Israeli defence exports to foreign armies in 2002
peaked at an all-time record of $4.18 billion, a rise of nearly 70
per cent over the previous year. Overseas weapons sales totaled $2.5
billion, India being one of the largest buyers of Israeli military
equipment and technology. Consequently, Israel, with only 40,000
people employed in its defence industries, has become the world's
fifth leading arms exporter after the U.S., the European Union,
Russia and Japan.
The signing of the deal of this highly sophisticated
weapon system and force multiplier has triggered a wave of concerns
among India ‘s neighbors. China, has expressed its uneasiness
about the Indo–Israeli deal under which India will purchase three
‘Phalcon’ early-warning aircraft, a sophisticated force
multiplier which was denied to Beijing under intense US pressure in
China's official Xinhua news agency reported recently
that the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and the Indian defence
ministry signed a $2 billion worth deal and cooperation agreement on
supplying Israeli weapon systems to India. According to the same
report, under the agreement, the largest deal is the sale of three
Phalcon early-warning aircraft and the upgrading of Indian Air Force
planes in cooperation with Russia.
Though India has clarified that it will use the Phalcons in only ‘Kargil
type of intrusions’, it has failed to assuage China, which
believes that the deal is detrimental for regional peace. However,
the deal should not disturb the Chinese since they already possesses
such force multipliers.
Pakistan considers the deal a strategic challenge to itself as it would
tilt the delicate conventional military balance in favour of India.
To counter the Indian move, Pakistan has reportedly geared up its
diplomatic channels to acquire surface to air missile ‘FT-2000’
commonly known as ‘AWACS Killers’ designed by Chinese experts.
It is being considered as the most appropriate option, if the USA
refuses to provide the same kind of airborne warning system to
The Phalcon assuages many of
India’s security concerns but is bound to amplify Pakistan’s
threat perceptions. And if the latter decides to go for the Chinese FT-2000 it might trigger an arms race weakening further, the security
complex in the region.
Vasantha Arora, “U.S. clears sale of Israeli Phalcon radars to India”, Indo-Asian
News Service, http://in.news.yahoo.com/030812/43/26tpw.html
visited on March 03, 2004.
takes note of Indo-Israeli ‘Phalcon’ deal”, The
Times of India, July 27, 2001.
Vasantha Arora, “US clears sale of Israeli Phalcon radars to India”, The Tribune, Chandigarh, August 12, 2003.
Israeli Arms Industry,
Phalcon 707, http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/row/phalcon.htm
visited on March03, 2004.
approves Phalcon sale to India”, February 29, 2004, http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/news/news.php?article=6991,
visited on March 03, 2004.
“Pakistan Looking To Acquire FT-2000 ‘AWACS
Killers’”, pakistandefence.com , visited on March 03, 2004.
“India-Israel sign Phalcon Deal”, The
Hindu, March 06, 2004.
Author is a Lecturer, School of Policy Science at National Law
Pic courtesy: IAI