The Indian Air Force (IAF) bombed Balakot on February 26 this year. The next day, it fought off a determined effort by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to attack Indian army installations. During both battles, the IAF, when it came to safe communication, found itself deficient. And in future, it could lead to costly failures.

Immediately after Balakot, the IAF has decided to quickly buy Software Defined Radios (SDR), and integrate them with the aircraft fleets. This emergency purchase of SDRs from Israel will be for the Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and Sukhoi-30 fighters of the IAF.

The SDRs will ensure secure communication not just between fighters in the air, but also between fighters in the air and the ground installations and importantly between the fighters in the air and the AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) – the eye in the sky. If there is an attempt to jam, communication can shift to another frequency and continue. 

Besides conversations, it will provide secure data linking. This means everyone will know who – whether it is the fighter pilot, the AWACS controllers, the ground plotters – is where. This will help in better “combat control.” 

“Whatever we were talking could have been heard,” a senior official said about the Balakot operations and after. The radios will ensure no one can pick up our communication. And importantly, the data linking will ensure we know who is where.” 

A small number – about 400 – are being purchased, as is possible during emergency acquisitions. Once the SDRs arrive, it will ensure that for the IAF, silence will truly be golden.