Global fighter jets scramble for Indian aero showpiece

February 8th, 2009 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Feb 8 (IANS) Global aerospace majors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Dassault have flown in their metal birds to India’s IT hub to showcase their air power at the seventh Aero India 2009 biannual trade expo that takes off Wednesday from the Indian Air Force (IAF) station at Yelahanka.

Billed as Asia’s premier event in the aviation sector, the five-day international trade expo-cum-conference will showcase an array of fighter jets, helicopters, transport and civil aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and a host of products/technologies that form the eco-system of the multi-billion dollar global aerospace industry.

“In the run-up, biggies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, MiG, Dassault, Saab, and BAE Systems have flown in their aircraft for flying and static display at the air show,” Wing Commander M.D. Singh of the defence exhibition organisation told IANS.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) consortium has also brought in for the first time four of its Eurofighters (Typhoon) from the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) for the showpiece.

Incidentally, all the six global aerospace majors Lockheed, Boeing, MiG, Dassault, Saab and EADS have pitched in their F-16, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, MiG-35D, French Rafale, Gripen and Typhoon for the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract from the IAF, estimated to cost about $10 billion (Rs.500 billion/Rs.50,000 crore).

“Vying with four Eurofighters will be F-16s, Falcons, Hornets, MiG-35, Rafale and Gripen to impress the prospective buyer (IAF) with assurances galore for grabbing the lucrative deal, which will have spin-offs benefits to Indian aerospace firms,” Singh pointed out.

Besides military aircraft, civil aircraft from the likes of Boeing, Airbus and Embraer business jet of Brazil and multi-utility copters from Bell and Eurocopter have landed to explore the Indian market unmindful of the downturn in the aviation sector due to slowdown and global recession.

Not to be left behind, state-run behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is in the forefront with its fighter aircraft such as Sukhoi-MKI30, jet trainer Hawk, Jaguar, Mirage, MiGs and the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) and its flagship product Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) for flying and static display.

The opening-up of the aerospace industry to the private sector with foreign participation up to 26 percent equity holding bodes well for the state-run HAL and Bharat Electronics and research and development (R&D) institutes such as DRDO, ADA, GTRE, ADE and CABS to pitch for partnerships and joint ventures for leveraging the resources, including skilled manpower.

“The opening up of the defence sector to foreign direct investment, the ongoing modernisation plan of IAF and opportunities in the civil aviation sector have opened new avenues for investments,” Singh said.

As a window of opportunity for global firms to network with their Indian counterparts and benefit from the expertise in R&D production, the mega event will provide a perfect backdrop to explore collaborative efforts.

“The trade fair will have the latest in military and civil aircraft, vital components for aircraft engines, avionics systems & sub systems, airfield radars and new age technologies used in the defence sector by manufacturers, vendors and suppliers,” Singh noted.

Of the record 592 exhibitors, including 303 from 25 countries and 289 from the Indian sub-continent, 31 firms each are from Germany and France, followed by Britain (26), Russia (24), the US (22), Italy (19), Belgium (17), Israel (11) and Australia (10).

Defence ministers from eight countries - France, Bolivia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Oman, Peru and Surinam - will descend on Bangalore Feb 11 for the inaugural show. High-level delegations from 40 countries will also make a beeline to this aerospace hub.

China will be represented for the first time through a token 10-member delegation.

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