And the U.S. Air Force thought times were tough …

India’s air force and Defence Ministry are facing challenges not unlike their American counterparts. In a bizarre move (or what could be interpreted as an act of solidarity with its Western Hemisphere brethren), the central Indian defense research office purchased the wrong aircraft for a major aviation electronics platform.

We don’t think Boeing or EADS were involved.

In early July, India sealed a deal with Brazil’s Embraer for three EMB-145 aircraft, which were to be converted to airborne early warning and control (AWE&C) planes, basically AWACS. India’s office of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) (and not India’s air force) bought the planes, which would have been fine, except Indian air force officials have said the plane is unsuitable as an AEW&C platform and apparently have been saying this for some time.

So what? Organizationally it appears in India, DRDO and its scientists seem to be the rock stars of Indian defense. Everyone else? Also-rans. DRDO seems to wield substantial power while enjoying widespread popularity. Rock stars.

India’s quest for its AWACS platform and the development of the radar components at home seem to point to the on-going love fest India shares with its bud, Pakistan. Maybe the Indians are growing more paranoid (if that’s possible). Maybe they have reason to be concerned: Reports say there is evidence that Pakistan played an important role in the recent bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, which killed at least 34, including one Indian defense attaché. Closer to home, Indian and Pakistani units have clashed in recent days in the disputed region that borders both nations, Kashmir, despite a long-standing cease-fire.

Did DRDO officials buy the wrong plane? Not really, according to Indian air force officials: The EMB-145 had been the right plane … until the air force piled on so many requirements that the new gear was became too heavy for the aircraft. And much of that new gear, the “homegrown” radar, was developed by — DRDO. Rock stars! And rock star money was spent: $210 million into Brazilian pockets.

But wait, there’s more. The plan to convert the EMB-145s dates to 2004 when $450 million was approved for the project. The air force apparently balked from the outset because neither the aircraft nor the homegrown radar met requirements, thus the super-sizing of the radar for the formerly suitable platform. (Sort of like a cat growing in girth over time.)

Defense ministry officials maintain the EMB-145 plus the homegrown radar as advertised will commence testing in 2012, though we think the air force has left the hangar on this one.

The aircraft currently is used in Brazil, Mexico, and Greece on Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Interesting. It is not in the U.S. inventory. We’re sure Boeing is breathing a sigh of relief.

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