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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Why India wants Israeli radar
By Mahmud Ali
BBC South Asia analyst

Ilyushin-76 aircraft
The Russian Ilyushin-76 houses the radar system
One issue likely to be high on the agenda during Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's forthcoming visit to India is the sale to Delhi of Israel's Phalcon early warning airborne radar system.

The two countries have been negotiating the purchase of the system for several years but until recently US restrictions prevented a sale.

Last month, Washington endorsed an Israeli transfer of the highly sophisticated technology and equipment to India.

The Phalcon is a radar system installed in the nose of a Russian-built Ilyushin-76 cargo aircraft.

The aircraft acts as the hub of a communications system that spots enemy planes and missiles, and then co-ordinates defence against them.

Unlike the US Awacs plane, the Phalcon does not need a rotating radar dome on top of the fuselage, which gives it increased manoeuvrability.

It can detect enemy aircraft and missiles within a range of hundreds of miles, at high or low altitudes, by day and night and in all weather conditions.

The Phalcon also carries equipment that monitors, analyses and decodes enemy radio transmissions.

Pakistani delegation

One outcome of the sale, when and if it goes through, would be to give India a greater conventional edge with its rivals, China and Pakistan.

Although China boasts a very much larger armed force north of the Himalayas, where India suffered a humiliating defeat in 1962, the Phalcon would provide a more robust defence.

But it is against Pakistan that the Phalcon might transform Indian superiority in numbers into a technological supremacy.

Therein lies the catch. Washington earlier blocked the sale on the grounds that it could ignite an arms race and worsen the regional security environment.

Given a sale, Pakistan might be expected to take measures to counter the advantages afforded to Delhi.

Perhaps to allay Islamabad's concerns, the US is receiving a Pakistani defence delegation around the time of Mr Sharon's visit to India to discuss, among other things, a Pakistani military purchase wish list reportedly worth several billion dollars.

US clears Israel-India radar deal
12 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Israel scraps China radar deal
12 Jul 00  |  Middle East
Israel questions Phalcon trade-off
13 Jul 00  |  Media reports
India signs 'historic' US arms deal
18 Apr 02  |  Business

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