By the early 2000s, India’s Air Force was expressing interest in buying modern aerial tankers, AWACS radar planes, maritime patrol aircraft, and other long-range, high-value aircraft. Things always take a longer time than they should in India, but the IAF is moving ahead on all fronts. IL-76TD based A-50EI Phalcon AWACS radar aircraft are arriving from Israel, as are has ordered Lockheed Martin’s C-130J-30 Hercules transports for its special forces and Boeing’s 737-derived P-8i Neptune for maritime patrol. A project is underway to develop a mid-size AWACS aircraft, and a competition will select a similar-sized maritime patrol plane to complement the new P-8is.
Aerial tankers enhance the capability of nearly every aircraft in this set, along with India’s fighter fleet. The IAF already operates Russian IL-76 transports, and 6 or 7 related IL-78MK “Midas” aerial tankers, but that won’t be enough. As the Indian Air Force inducts new high-value aircraft, the need for aerial refueling tankers grows along with them. In response, the IAF plans to buy another 6 aerial tankers. In order to add to its fleet, however, the IAF must first overcome India’s bureaucracy.