Okay, so every once in a while I get some time to sit and do one of these posts involving some analysis. Here's one I have been wanting to do since the Balakot action.
I think its fair to say that from the snippets of information post Balakot that the IAF was struggling to keep the skies covered with special-mission AEW/AWACS airplanes on account of shortage of aircraft and limited endurance. The big issue is that both the IAF AEW/AWACS aircraft types are jet-engined and with low-bypass ratio engines (relatively). The IL-76 airframe is not designed for station keeping (even with the new higher-bypass engines). The Embraer ERJ-135/145 airplane is designed to take business customers at the highest possible speed and is also not designed for slow-speed station keeping. It gets from point A to point B at maximum range at Mach 0.78/0.8.
By comparison, the PAF has both its AEW aircraft based on turboprops that are designed for slow speed and higher endurance.
So, consider the following rough known estimates for (non-refueling) endurance of these aircraft:
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Aircraft Endurance (hrs)
So you can see the issue: the IAF airplanes have an endurance problem. Therefore they are equipped for in-flight refueling. But how many refueling airplanes do we have? Four? And who will refuel fighters if they are refueling these large support airplanes?
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The PAF has us completely outnumbered on just the airframe numbers.
Then there is the issue of coverage. The Indian aircraft are known to have higher capabilities in this regard than the PAF aircraft. I am referring here to just the detection range and nothing else. And even this is assumed to be at the 10-20km altitude range. As an example for the Erieye:Erieye detection ranges
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Aircraft Search range (km)
ERJ-145 400+ (limited azimuth)
Consider the shared border length between the two countries and couple it to the above data (plus a myriad of smaller assumptions like time taken to get to altitude and to/fro from launch bases, etc.) and you get a plot that I have animated below:
What I refer to as the "Coverage ratio" is an equation that gives you a normalized number for the segment of the border that the special mission aircraft in each air force (Pak and India) can maintain 24X7 coverage for. You plot this as a function of years to see what the coverage gap is between the two air forces over the years.
Of significant note:
1. The PAF minhas strike by the TTP terrorists was a godsend (no pun intended) in delaying the PAF numbers advantage in 2012. That year was the only one in which the IAF matched the PAF in AEW/AWACS aircraft numbers.
1(b). But as you can see, not only has the PAF recovered, but have surpassed their original requirement for Erieye numbers by quite a margin. I will post more on this in the Pakistan arms thread.
2. The DRDO AWACS(I) has powerful combination of detection range as well as endurance and completely outclasses anything else in the subcontinent. Hence the spike in increased coverage ratio for the IAF after 2025.
2(b). The DRDO AWACS(I) cannot come soon enough.
3. PAF plans for AEW/AWACS expansion in 2020-2030 timeframe is unknown. Again, perhaps a conversation on this in the Pak arms thread.
I will probably do a similar plot like this for the China-India comparison, but I think the picture is pretty clear and it only gets worse from here.