India steals limelight at Farnborough air show

July 24th, 2010 - 9:50 pm ICT by IANS  

David Cameron By Venkata Vemuri
Farnborough, July 24 (IANS) Embarked on a spree of defence and commercial aviation deals, India was clearly in the limelight at the Farnborough International Air Show 2010 and the coming months may see increased efforts by foreign firms to woo the country.

Summing up the air show, Mike Alvis, executive vice president of the American defence technology supplier ITT Defense International said at a press conference: “We’re seeing unbelievable demand from India. There’s a lot of willingness to spend on defence.”

Western firms are seeing India as the biggest spender among emerging economies.

The impression is backed by ongoing deals which were talked about at the air show like the C-17 military transport planes and Dreamline 787 passenger craft from Boeing, the Hawk fighter jets from British defence group BAE Systems and military equipment from ITT Corp.

These firms are also keenly awaiting India’s choice of supplier for its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal for the supply of 126 aircraft to augment the Indian Air Force.

Of the six firms short-listed, five are from the US and Europe, the sixth being a Russian firm.

Defence deals are on top of the agenda as British Prime Minister David Cameron visits India next week, more so because of Britain slashing defence spending and looking for increased exports.

British Trade and Industry spokesman Adam Thomas said at the air show: “We see huge opportunities from emerging markets. We have a global market share of close to 20 percent and we have been bringing delegates from as many countries as possible to Farnborough.”

Cameron will have in mind the fact that one of the competitors for the MMRCA deal is the Eurotyphoon fighter, manufactured by EADS, a consortium of which BAE is a partner.

But the immediate British deal relates to the Hawk jets. BAE Systems hopes to sign a deal to supply more Hawk trainer jets to India, building on an established partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

BAE is also interested in selling the Type-26 Frigate.

BAE’s group business development director Alan Garwood said his company “is close to sealing” the Hawk deal.

The Americans too seemed enthusiastic about growing defence ties with India at the air show.

An American arms supplier, Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, who was at the air show, commented on Indo-US ties: “The relationship is at the best and highest level it’s been.”

Christopher Chadwick, president of Boeing military aircraft - which too has a stake in India’s MMRCA deal - said India was interested in buying more than the 10 C-17 planes already planned.

The C-17 Globemaster deal at approximately 3.8 billion pounds is the largest Indo-US deal ever, overtaking the 1.4 billion-pound contract for eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft inked last year.

Russia, whose Ilyushin Il-76 transporters the C-17s will eventually replace, sought to downplay the impression that its deals with India were drying up.

At a briefing at the Russian stall, Alexander Mikheiev, deputy director of the Russian agency Rosoboronexport announced details of the deal involving the fifth generation Russian fighter, T-50.

“I can confirm that an addendum to the agreement on developing an engine for fifth generation fighter will be signed before the end of the year,” he said.

The Russians indicated the special efforts being taken to retain India’s partnership by diversifying to commercial aviation.

Igor Pshenichny, first deputy executive director for marketing and sales at Russian Helicopters — which is selling four commercial machines to an Indian company — said: “As to the commercial market for us it’s a practically new market.”

“We have several commercial helicopter operators there, but it’s not a big quantity for such a big and huge economically developing country as India. So we are putting additional emphasis on this market now,” he added.

(Venkata Vemuri can be contacted at

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