HomeAatmanirbhar BharatIndian Air Force to acquire 7 Airbus A321 for DRDO’s SCA (Signal...

Indian Air Force to acquire 7 Airbus A321 for DRDO’s SCA (Signal Intelligence and COMJAM Aircraft)

Source : Indian Defence Analysis

Indian Air Force to acquire 7 Airbus A321 for DRDO’s SCA (Signal Intelligence and COMJAM Aircraft)

Before we start the article, let’s understand 3 important terms which we will be repeating quite frequently in our discussion. These are SIGINT, COMINT, and ELINT.

Signals intelligence, commonly known as SIGINT, stands as a cornerstone of intelligence-gathering methods involving the interception and meticulous analysis of signals emanating from enemy communications systems, radar networks, and weaponry. Its profound significance in bolstering national security lies in its capability to furnish invaluable insights into an adversary’s capabilities, actions, and intentions. These insights, in turn, empower military personnel to maintain a vigilant stance against current and potential threats.

DRDO’s Special Mission Aircraft Fleet

Special mission aircraft, possessing unparalleled intelligence collection capabilities, are poised to be a transformative asset in times of escalating tensions with adversaries. These specialized aircraft are adaptable to various roles, including signals intelligence, maritime reconnaissance, and airborne early warning systems.

At the esteemed Aero India 2023 event, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) unveiled a trio of special mission aircraft, each with distinct capabilities. This article delves into the Signal Intelligence and Communication Jamming (SCA) aircraft, while subsequent pieces will delve into the Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft and the Medium-Range Maritime Reconnaissance/Multi-Mode Maritime Aircraft (MRMR/MMMA), based on insights gleaned from discussions with DRDO officials during Aero India 2023.

Signal Intelligence and Communication Jamming (SCA) Aircraft

At Aero India 2023, DRDO prominently featured a 1:32 scale model of its SCA aircraft, a groundbreaking endeavor poised to leverage a pre-owned Airbus A319 as its platform. This long-endurance multi-mission aircraft is designed to excel in Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Communications Intelligence (COMINT) functions. Its principal role revolves around passive intelligence gathering and signal jamming.

In the COMJAM capacity, the aircraft assumes the critical role of jamming Radio Frequency (RF) signals based on data collected by its Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and COMINT assets. It can also receive pertinent information via the Indian Air Force’s Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) network.

Operating at an altitude of 35,000 feet with an impressive endurance of 6 hours, the SCA will be outfitted with state-of-the-art COMINT and ELINT sensors characterized by exceptional sensitivity and a high probability of interception. These sensors will execute rapid scanning while soaring at high altitudes, searching for RF signals within predefined or desired frequency ranges. Once the desired signal is detected, aided by Artificial Intelligence, the aircraft ascertains its direction of origin and emitting location, swiftly determining the target’s geolocation. Subsequently, it initiates automatic jamming of the target. The aircraft maintains continuous communication with ground stations through Line of Sight (LoS) and SATCOM data links.

For self-protection, the aircraft will incorporate a comprehensive suite of defense mechanisms, including a Radar Warning System (RWR), Electronic Warfare Support Measures (ESM), Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS), and Counter Measures Dispensing System (CMDS).

Development Outlook

According to discussions with DRDO officials, the proposal for the SCA and COMJAM aircraft has been submitted to the government. Pending funding approval, formal work on this critical project is yet to commence. It is worth noting that in 2017, the Indian Air Force issued a Request for Information (RFI) for seven airborne electronic intelligence (ELINT) assets, with a budget of $570 million. These ELINT platforms are earmarked for signals intelligence, communication-jamming capabilities, electronic warfare, and spoofing during hostilities. DRDO’s SCA aircraft aligns seamlessly with the Indian Air Force’s requirements, affirming its potential to significantly contribute to the nation’s defense capabilities.

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