Pakistan has silently introduced a new SAAB 2000-based Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, boosting its fleet to approximately nine. In contrast, the Indian Air Force (IAF) operates three Russian IL-76 ‘Phalcon’ AWACS and two Embraer Netra early warning aircraft. This development leaves the IAF outnumbered by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), which also operates the Chinese ZDK03 Karakoram Eagle AWACS.
The Erieye AEW&Cs play a pivotal role in surveillance and reconnaissance, directing and controlling fighter jets during offensive air operations. The recent addition contributes to Pakistan’s advantage in AWACS capability, particularly given India’s vast landmass, requiring a greater number of AWACS for effective airspace management.
While the IAF has ongoing challenges on the western front with Pakistan, the need for additional AWACS becomes crucial. Experts estimate that the IAF requires at least ten such aircraft for effective airspace coverage. India has made efforts to enhance its AWACS capability, including the acquisition of Airbus A321s for the Defense Research Development Organization’s Netra MkII AEW&C jets. However, delays and challenges persist in bridging the gap with Pakistan in terms of AEW&C capabilities.
In summary, Pakistan’s continuous augmentation of its AWACS fleet positions it favorably against India, accentuating the strategic importance of airborne early warning and control capabilities in the region.