India Almost Flew the E-2 Hawkeye Carrier-Based AEW&C in 2000, Now China's KJ-600 Soars

India Almost Flew the E-2 Hawkeye Carrier-Based AEW&C in 2000, Now China's KJ-600 Soars


The development of carrier-based airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platforms underscores the growing significance of these assets for modern naval forces.

China's KJ-600 program highlights this, but it's not the first time an Asian nation seriously considered this capability. The Indian Navy, years before the KJ-600, nearly made a deal that would have profoundly changed its carrier operations.

India's Hawkeye Exploration​

In the early 2000s, India eyed the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye for its upcoming Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), a planned 65,000-ton carrier. The goal was to acquire six E-2s for both the INS Vikramaditya and its new domestically built carrier.

The E-2 Hawkeye is well-regarded, offering significant command and control capabilities and long-range aerial surveillance.

However, the Indian Navy quickly ran into obstacles:
  • Carrier Compatibility: India's planned carriers lacked catapult launch systems (CATOBAR), vital for operating heavier aircraft like the E-2.
  • Performance Limitations: Reports suggested the Hawkeye struggled in specific lighting conditions, dramatically hampering its endurance.
By 2005, the Indian Navy walked away from the deal. Limitations coupled with possible emerging alternatives likely drove that decision.

China's Airborne Solution - The KJ-600​

Meanwhile, China forged ahead with its domestic AEW&C solution, the KJ-600. This high-wing, twin-propeller aircraft carries a large dorsal radome suggesting substantial radar power.

Built explicitly for the PLAN's Type 003 carriers (which do use CATOBAR launch systems), the KJ-600 promises significantly enhanced situational awareness for Chinese naval operations.

Its development speaks to the growing role AEW&C aircraft play in naval power projection, a role China clearly wants to maximize.

The Future of Asian Carrier-Based AEW&C​

While the Indian Navy ultimately took a different route (opting for smaller helicopter-based AEW systems), it's probable they'll explore fixed-wing carrier solutions in the future.

The benefits of an aircraft like the KJ-600 – extended range, powerful radar, and superior command and control functions – are undeniable.

Both China and India's interest in this area emphasizes the shift in regional maritime security. AEW&C platforms are becoming central to establishing dominance within an increasingly contested operational theater.
 
Does this mean Indian carrier groups don't have proper AEW&C solutions? Is Indian navy at a disadvantage? Can Boeing MQ 25 Stingray be modified for AEW&C purpose?
 
Does this mean Indian carrier groups don't have proper AEW&C solutions? Is Indian navy at a disadvantage? Can Boeing MQ 25 Stingray be modified for AEW&C purpose?
No. Indian navy has helicopter based AEW&C systems. They function well but their limitation is lesser range and cant be refuelled in air
 
To use these, a functioning catapult system is required on carriers. Operational Chinese carriers dont have those. The latest chinese carrier fujian is rumored to have EMALS, but I doubt it is functional, i think it is still in testing. It is very very difficult technology to master.
 
Potential alternative solutions? What, exactly, were these? The Ka-31? We know for a fact that the Ka-31 does not have sufficient range.

Short of someone deciding to stick a massive radome on top of a fighter or something, there are no potential alternative solutions other than the E-2.

Depending on when IAC-III comes to fruition, we will have to procure AWACS aircraft for the carrier. For that, unless we have some drone at the time that can be modified for the role, foreign sales will have to be the way.
 
To use these, a functioning catapult system is required on carriers. Operational Chinese carriers dont have those. The latest chinese carrier fujian is rumored to have EMALS, but I doubt it is functional, i think it is still in testing. It is very very difficult technology to master.
Let them test and fix it if it doesn't work. See, they wouldn't put a system that didn't work at all on a carrier. The fact that they have shows that it should work.

Even the US had a lot of difficulty with EMALS, and I imagine China and India will face similar challenges. In China's case, they will also have to figure out how to use EMALS on constrained power, given the Type 003's conventional powerplant. We shall see.
 
Tankers and AEW aircraft will be key to India's next gen 65-75000Ton carriers (hopefully with nuclear propulsion).
 
Does this mean Indian carrier groups don't have proper AEW&C solutions? Is Indian navy at a disadvantage? Can Boeing MQ 25 Stingray be modified for AEW&C purpose?
We have the Kamov Ka-31 AWACS helicopters. It is one of those projects (similar to the MiG-29K) whose existence can be attributed to India, since Russia cancelled the project at prototype stage.

Now, the Ka-31 is a decent AWCS platform, but it has very low endurance (2.5 hours in ideal conditions) which makes it less suitable in the long run.
 
Potential alternative solutions? What, exactly, were these? The Ka-31? We know for a fact that the Ka-31 does not have sufficient range.

Short of someone deciding to stick a massive radome on top of a fighter or something, there are no potential alternative solutions other than the E-2.

Depending on when IAC-III comes to fruition, we will have to procure AWACS aircraft for the carrier. For that, unless we have some drone at the time that can be modified for the role, foreign sales will have to be the way.
Option could be V-22 Ospreys (as tankers, AEW and transports for our 2-3 carriers we need about 12-18 Ospreys including in reserve; number could go up if special ops and Army need them for logistics etc..), besides drones (which have limited payloads) off India's smallish 45000 carriers, till we build next ge 65-75000 Ton carriers hopefully with nuclear propulsion by 2034-2040.
 
Tankers and AEW aircraft will be key to India's next gen 65-75000Ton carriers (hopefully with nuclear propulsion).
Agreed. My point is simply this:

INS Vishal was originally planned for the late 2030s, with the idea being a 65,000 ton conventional CATOBAR carrier. Nuclear propulsion was not taken up for reasons of cost and the belief we wouldn't have a reactor that was powerful enough ready.

Now, with IAC-II planned to be a modified sister ship to Vikrant, we can push IAC-III back by about a decade. Vikramaditya should be able to serve into the second half of the 2040s if she goes for reduced readiness once IAC-II comes online and we give her a LIFEX or two.

That extra ten years should be enough to bring nuclear propulsion back on the table. Now, increase the displacement to 75,000 tons instead, and we could have a class of ship very closely based on the French PANG (the replacement for the Charles de Gaulle). We could join hands with them for developing the ship, and then build a variant of the carrier for ourselves under IAC-III.

Those designs could also act as a starting point for IAC-IV and IAC-V, which will be needed to replace Vikrant in 2067 and IAC-II in the late 2070s.
 
Option could be V-22 Ospreys (as tankers, AEW and transports for our 2-3 carriers we need about 12-18 Ospreys including in reserve; number could go up if special ops and Army need them for logistics etc..), besides drones (which have limited payloads) off India's smallish 45000 carriers, till we build next ge 65-75000 Ton carriers hopefully with nuclear propulsion by 2034-2040.
The V-22 would be a good candidate as an interim solution, assuming the concept was workable to that extent and the aircraft is able to handle those roles.

Each of our carriers presently hosts 10 helicopters, which generally comprises 4 Ka-31s each besides ASW helicopters. These could be replaced by a hypothetical EV-22.

However, an AWACS version of the V-22 doesn't exist, and the US doesn't plan on having those anytime soon. Hence, it may become prohibitively expensive for us to pay for the development and then the procurement of these. That said, if we could get the US and UK on board with this concept, then things might be more favourable.

As for the rest, Sir, please refer to my reply to your main comment. I don't want to re-type all that again.
 
Its s joke to say Indian Navy had a plan for eye in the sky. At most it can be called a fantasy !! A plan is when you have a map to achieve something. When you run into problem, you overcome it or come up with equally good options. In this case, it was neither. If Indian navy was serious, it would have acquired it and based it out of so many islands we have or even on the southern tip of India. At least we would have gained a lot of experience by now.
Now we not have any experience, plus there in plan to catch up with adversaries having this capability. The big difference between China and India is that the Chinese are tenacious about strategic matters and get capabilities by hook or crook, whereas India keeps talking big and either does not deliver or delivers below par. We have developed a reputation for this.
 
Does this mean Indian carrier groups don't have proper AEW&C solutions? Is Indian navy at a disadvantage? Can Boeing MQ 25 Stingray be modified for AEW&C purpose?
You are 100% right. Indian navy is at a definite disadvantage. China has both land based as well as carrier based AEW&C aircraft. Matter of time before they base it out of Djibouti and Maldives.
 
Potential alternative solutions? What, exactly, were these? The Ka-31? We know for a fact that the Ka-31 does not have sufficient range.

Short of someone deciding to stick a massive radome on top of a fighter or something, there are no potential alternative solutions other than the E-2.

Depending on when IAC-III comes to fruition, we will have to procure AWACS aircraft for the carrier. For that, unless we have some drone at the time that can be modified for the role, foreign sales will have to be the way.
Options were actually going for the Nothrop Grumman E2D Hawkeye or even the Boeing E3 Sentry and land basing it from Arakkonam or even the Minicoy islands. We did neither and just chose to lament about lack of carrier capability for basing the E2D, while having no real plan to develop the capability either.
 
Agreed. My point is simply this:

INS Vishal was originally planned for the late 2030s, with the idea being a 65,000 ton conventional CATOBAR carrier. Nuclear propulsion was not taken up for reasons of cost and the belief we wouldn't have a reactor that was powerful enough ready.

Now, with IAC-II planned to be a modified sister ship to Vikrant, we can push IAC-III back by about a decade. Vikramaditya should be able to serve into the second half of the 2040s if she goes for reduced readiness once IAC-II comes online and we give her a LIFEX or two.

That extra ten years should be enough to bring nuclear propulsion back on the table. Now, increase the displacement to 75,000 tons instead, and we could have a class of ship very closely based on the French PANG (the replacement for the Charles de Gaulle). We could join hands with them for developing the ship, and then build a variant of the carrier for ourselves under IAC-III.

Those designs could also act as a starting point for IAC-IV and IAC-V, which will be needed to replace Vikrant in 2067 and IAC-II in the late 2070s.
makes sense - we can manage with 2 carriers if we can get 2 nuclear carriers of at least 65000ton size say starting 2040 and 2nd one in 2045...France can be key to nuclear propulsion for both SSNs and Carriers...Don't know what the inside story is but given what France has and only countries like India can buy - they should be game...Scaling up the Franch = 2 × Areva K15 pressurised water reactors (PWR), 150 MWt each,[4][5] LEU < 20%, may be faster...the same reactors also power the Barracuda SSNs - K15 nuclear reactor, 150 MW (200,000 hp)...So let us see the Modi-Macron magic to get India nuclear carriers and SSNs.
 
Option could be V-22 Ospreys (as tankers, AEW and transports for our 2-3 carriers we need about 12-18 Ospreys including in reserve; number could go up if special ops and Army need them for logistics etc..), besides drones (which have limited payloads) off India's smallish 45000 carriers, till we build next ge 65-75000 Ton carriers hopefully with nuclear propulsion by 2034-2040.
Ospreys are not even an option due to their cost and safety record! Except US who can afford it, no country uses such costly aircraft for logistics purposes.
 
The V-22 would be a good candidate as an interim solution, assuming the concept was workable to that extent and the aircraft is able to handle those roles.

Each of our carriers presently hosts 10 helicopters, which generally comprises 4 Ka-31s each besides ASW helicopters. These could be replaced by a hypothetical EV-22.

However, an AWACS version of the V-22 doesn't exist, and the US doesn't plan on having those anytime soon. Hence, it may become prohibitively expensive for us to pay for the development and then the procurement of these. That said, if we could get the US and UK on board with this concept, then things might be more favourable.

As for the rest, Sir, please refer to my reply to your main comment. I don't want to re-type all that again.
UK seems to be working on tanker versions of V-22s...Japan, South Korea, Australia and our own future LPDs may also need such capability...Can DRDO work with Boeing to get the AEW version functional?
 
Option could be V-22 Ospreys (as tankers, AEW and transports for our 2-3 carriers we need about 12-18 Ospreys including in reserve; number could go up if special ops and Army need them for logistics etc..), besides drones (which have limited payloads) off India's smallish 45000 carriers, till we build next ge 65-75000 Ton carriers hopefully with nuclear propulsion by 2034-2040.
All ospreys were grounded repeatedly few months ago due to repeated accidents. I think what india needs to do here is complete the development of deck based helicopter and churn out its variants with awacs, asw, refuelling capability.
 
Potential alternative solutions? What, exactly, were these? The Ka-31? We know for a fact that the Ka-31 does not have sufficient range.

Short of someone deciding to stick a massive radome on top of a fighter or something, there are no potential alternative solutions other than the E-2.

Depending on when IAC-III comes to fruition, we will have to procure AWACS aircraft for the carrier. For that, unless we have some drone at the time that can be modified for the role, foreign sales will have to be the way.
Probably deck based helicopter naval version with asw,awacs version.
 

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