‘Largest' aero show takes wing today

Our Bureau | Updated on March 12, 2018
Airbus offers to build its light utility AS550 Fennec and the medium lift EC725 for India's armed forces. File Photo of an Indian Air Force LCH helicopter

Bangalore: India's first indigenous Light Combat Helicopter making its maiden flight at the HAL airport in Bangalore on Sunday. - PTI Photo   -  PTI

Boeing stall at Yelahanka Air Station for the AERO INDIA 2011 in Bangalore on 8th February 2011. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K   -  Business Line

The garden city of Bangalore will awaken on Wednesday to the inauguration of the five-day biennial air show — Aero India 2011. Billed as the largest Defence show ever, Aero India 2011 is being organised by the Ministry of Defence.

The show will have 40 national delegates and the participation of 63 countries who will together put on display 95 aircraft. This year's event is expected to be the largest of the eight Aero shows held so far with more than 650 exhibitors compared with about 580 exhibitors in 2009 when the last show was held in Bangalore. The participating countries include the US, Russia Afghanistan, Brazil, Mongolia and South Korea.

Besides the static display of hardware by the various exhibitors, the show which kicks off at the Yelahanka Air Base near Bangalore will also have seminars on topics including innovation and technology, airborne surveillance, EW systems, unmanned vehicles, flight testing and civil aircrafts. Participating in the seminars will be academicians from universities across the world, as well as CEOs and technologists both from abroad and India. There will also be breath-taking air shows over the weekend.

Indian participation

Among the highlights of the show is the maiden flight of the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) indigenously developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). In another first, an Indian citizen will fly the world's most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft, the Gripen JAS 39.

The event will see HAL give delivery of its Cheetah helicopter to the Namibian Air Force and deliver the first five of the 159 advanced light helicopters, the Dhruv Mk III, to the Army.

Also on display at the HAL stall will be a model of the medium-lift transport plane, the MTA. The MTA will be manufactured by HAL and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation and will be a replacement for the Indian Air Force's ageing AN-32 aircraft. It can be used to transport personnel under normal situations and also be used for deploying paratroopers.

The intermediate jet trainer, more popularly know as the IJT, will also occupy pride of place at the show. The ITJs will replace the Kiran aircraft of the Indian Air Force. Models of the Sukhoi-30 Mk I fighters, Dhruv, Dornier-228, and the UK product, the Hawk advanced jet trainer which is being built under licence will also be on display.

The second weaponised prototype of the LCH will also be unveiled at Aero India 2011. The LCH is an attack variant of the Dhruv, which has been inducted into the armed forces. HAL has an order for more than 150 LCHs to be delivered to the Indian armed forces.

Global interest

With the Indian armed forces entering the global arms market for acquiring more Defence equipment, there is renewed interest in the show among different countries. What is also likely to generate interest among international defence manufacturing companies is as Defence Minister, Mr A.K. Antony, said while inaugurating the international seminar: “India has chalked out for itself a challenging roadmap to develop many challenging aerospace programmes like Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, Aerostats, Unmanned Combat Aircraft, Airborne Early Warning and Control System, Medium Altitude Long Range Unmanned Aircraft, Rustom and our own Gas Turbine Engine - Kaveri.”

The participant list at the show reads like a virtual who's-who of the global Defence industry. Among those expected to be present are the European aerospace giant Airbus and its American competitor Boeing along with Rolls Royce, United Technologies Corp and Dassault Aviation.

Several companies participating are already in the race for the various acquisition programmes that are under way for the Indian armed forces.

Under focus at the show will be India's $10 billion contract to procure 126 medium-weight multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCAs). Hence, possibly for the first-time all the six contenders for this contract— Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin's F-16 Super Viper (US), MiG Corporation's MiG-35 (Russia), Dassault's Rafale (France), EADS's Eurofighter Typhoon (European Union) and SAAB's Gripen (Swedish) — are participating in an Aero show in India. The Indian Air Force has plans of getting 126 MMRCAs to bolster its depleting squadron strength.

The United States' participation will be the largest with the biggest display of American high-technology systems ever brought to India. More than 20 US defence companies will be taking part. On display will be airplanes, weapons systems and military technology. These include top-of-the-line aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J Hercules and KC-135 Stratotanker. These will not only be on display but will also take part in flight demonstrations.

The US Ambassador, Mr Timothy J. Roemer; the Commerce Secretary, Mr Gary Locke; the Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs, Mr Andrew Shapiro, and top US military and Defence officials will also be present at the show.

Russia will exhibit over 80 types of weaponry and will be represented by 35 companies. Among the Russian companies expected to participate are MiG, Sukhoi, Almaz-Antei and Engineering Design Bureau. Swedish firm Gripen has said that three of its aircraft will be arriving in Bangalore and will be put on display.

Gripen will put up on static display the SAAB 340 and SAAB 2000, and Skeldar, a medium-range UAV system that can hover for hours while providing real-time information to a control station or to a remote video terminal.

Published on February 08, 2011

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