New Delhi: When India avenged the Pulwama terror attack by destroying the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot area in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the attack by the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Mirage 2000 was guided by home-made eye in the sky, ‘Netra’.
Netra, which was the operational brain, is an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. It provided surveillance and radar coverage for combat fighter jets.
Designed and developed by scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Netra uses the Embraer platform. It alerts pilots of incoming missiles as it has infrared detection capability that can see the hot exhaust of the missiles.
As per DRDO sources, Netra can track targets 450-500 km deep into enemy territory without crossing the Line of Control (LoC). Also, it has an almost 120-degree view of enemy territory while being airborne.
The AEW&C aircraft can eavesdrop and listen to all communications that take place among Pakistan’s armed forces. It gathers all the electronic intelligence and beams it back live to commanders on the ground. The national security establishment can also monitor the operations live in New Delhi, using data sent from the Netra.
Netra is capable of flying for five hours at a stretch, but with air-to-air refuelling, it can fly for nine hours. The aircraft can also be patched with satellite-based platforms. The IAF, recently, received its dedicated satellite called GSAT-7A made by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The DRDO had earlier tested the Netra by flying it from high-altitude airfields like Srinagar and Leh.
The IAF has received two Netra aircraft while a third is with the DRDO undergoing tests to develop an advanced version. The development of Netra started way back in 2007 at a cost of Rs. 2,460 crore. The final product was delivered in 2017.