Phalcon Sale to India

An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 12 March 2004 

Big spending has suddenly marked the MOD's actions just when election fever is raging and hopefuls are spending money like water hiring planes and helicopters, running Yatras and printing posters and canvassing. Indian voters love the Tamasha and now many film stars are in the fray.

All  Indian Governments have been on good terms with the Irkut Production Agency (IAPO) on which India had ordered the 190 SU 30MKI in tranches as the big ticket purchase for the Indian Air Force. We have received many queries on the recent 3 Phalcon $ 1.1b sale  to India from Israel and the Russians and so we offer this piece from Alok Gupta, which tries to thread the advance this plane will mean for India's Air Defence to join the leading nations of the world. 

Israel will receive  $350 million and IAPO which will build the IL 76s as per Gupta will have another bonus. Separately the Gorshkov was handed over to the Indian Amabssador Raghunath in Severdovisnk at the SeverMash Dockyard as a gift in a symbolic gesture in the presence of Russian CNS Kuruyodev who was in Delhi for the signing, so that now the Dockyard can raise the invoice and India can pay. 

We also get media news that the 66 AJT Deal with BAE will be inked soon and the problem of poor homework on tooling and the costs between HAL and BAE is being resolved so that the payment can be made before 31st March, as was done in the case of the Bofors in 1987 when payments were made before the year end accounting . This will help reduce the huge FFE reserves, which is worrying economists and the MOD will not be pulled up for surrendering its budget. 

All this makes sense and the  Defence Minsiter who was at sea with the Navy off Goa earlier this week said the that the 6 Scorpene Type 75 submarine order will be top priority if the NDA Government is reelected, so the French will have to wait. 


Phalcon Sale to India: Regional and Strategic Implications

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 systems.

Features of Phalcon

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 sensors.

  • 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 operators.

  • The aircraft communicates, via its data link, with Air Defense Headquarters. Data from additional air defense sensors are fused to create a complete spatial picture.

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 “Condor”.

The Bottlenecks

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. technology.

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 been rehabilitated.

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.

Strategic Importance

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 2000.

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 Pakistan.

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.


  1. Vasantha Arora, “U.S. clears sale of Israeli Phalcon radars to India”, Indo-Asian News Service, visited on March 03, 2004.

  2. “China takes note of Indo-Israeli ‘Phalcon’ deal”, The Times of India, July 27, 2001.

  3. Vasantha Arora, US clears sale of Israeli Phalcon radars to India”, The Tribune, Chandigarh, August 12, 2003. 

  4. Israeli Arms Industry, Phalcon 707, visited on March03, 2004.

  5. “Israeli cabinet approves Phalcon sale to India”, February 29, 2004,, visited on March 03, 2004.

  6.  “Pakistan Looking To Acquire FT-2000 ‘AWACS Killers’”, , visited on March 03, 2004.

  7.  “India-Israel sign Phalcon Deal”, The Hindu, March 06, 2004.

*The Author is a Lecturer, School of Policy Science at National Law University, Jodhpur.

** Pic courtesy: IAI

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