New Delhi: The 11th edition of the Aero India air show which starts in Bengaluru on Tuesday is expected to be one of the largest in recent years, with a focus on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India initiative.
Around 270 Indian and 279 foreign firms are slated to participate in the event where some major companies, including Airbus and Boeing Co, are expected to sign deals under the Make in India banner.
“It is expected that two lakh business visitors will attend the show. The gross area (of the show) has also increased from 2,50,000 sq. m to 2,60,000 sq. m,” the ministry of defence said in a statement.
While Modi had inaugurated the previous Bengaluru air show in 2015, defence minister Manohar Parrikar is likely to open it this year as the event coincides with election activity in several states.
The highlight of the show at the city’s Yelahanka Air Force Station will be fighter jets that make up a large part of the 72 aircraft being showcased. Among these will be Rafale fighter jets made by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation SA. India bought 36 of these aircraft for an estimated $8.9 billion last year in a deal that has been negotiated several times over the years.
Dassault Aviation said three fighter jets will participate—one single-seat Rafale C and two of the two-seat Rafale B.
Rafale planes have been used by the French armed forces in combat operations for more than a decade. They entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and the Air Force in 2006. Some of the 152 planes delivered so far have been used in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria.
India had started hunting for multi-role fighter jets in 2007 but later decided to scrap that tender, instead announcing that it would buy Rafale jets from France under a government-to-government deal agreed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Paris in 2015.
The combat aircraft—delivery of which is expected to begin in September 2019 and be completed by April, 2022—come equipped with state-of-the-art missiles such as Meteor and Scalp, according to the defence ministry.
With the air-to-air Meteor missiles, the Indian Air Force will be able to hit targets as distant as 150km, compared with the 80km it was so far capable of targeting. Scalp, an air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300km, will also give IAF an edge over adversaries.
“Demonstrating Rafale’s capabilities in Aero India reaffirms our total commitment to India’s sovereignty. We have had a long standing relationship with Indian Air Force and industry and, thanks to the unmatched capabilities of the Rafale and to our full involvement in the innovative approach of the “Make in India” initiative, we are entirely dedicated to partner India in meeting its strategic defence and economic needs,” Eric Trappier, chairman and chief executive of Dassault Aviation said in a statement.
The Russian Sukhoi 30MKI, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) Hawks are also likely to be present at the show.
But all eyes will be on American F-16s and Swedish Saab fighter jet Gripen E and its naval variant Gripen Maritime. Both companies are vying to bag the next multi-billion order from India under the so-called strategic partnership model according to which the manufacturer will be asked to set up an assembly line in India.
Airbus said it will showcase its H130 chopper ambulance on static display.
“The future of Indian aerospace and defence industry rests on the realization of the ‘Make in India’ vision. I look forward to having conversations around the topic at Aero India,” said Pierre de Bausset, president and managing director at Airbus India.
“We have partnered with Tata and Mahindra and are working with a host of other companies to script ‘Make in India’ success stories,” he added.
The firm said it procures about $500 million (about Rs3,400 crore) worth of products from India annually from around 45 suppliers, generating local employment for more than 6,000 people.
The Tata Group said all its key firms will participate in the event, including Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Advanced Materials Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd, Titan Co. Ltd, Tata Steel (Specialty Steel business in Europe), TAL Manufacturing Solutions Ltd and Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division.
The five-day show will have exhibitors from the US, France, UK, Russia, Israel, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Ukraine, Singapore, Sweden, Spain, South Africa, Italy, the UAE, South Korea, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Poland and Greece.
Indian Air Force’s Sarang Team,the Surya Kiran Team, the Scandinavian Air Show Team from Sweden and the Evolvkos Aerobatic Team from the UK will perform aerobatics at the show.
Aero India, which began in 1996, has become one of the largest air shows in Asia. This show is followed by one in Abu Dhabi and most international players move on to showcase their military ware there over the weekend.