Event enhances our status as a market for defence equipment: Antony

The eighth edition of Aero India got off to a flying start in Bangalore on Wednesday. The highlight of the opening day was a display of breathtaking manoeuvres by several aircraft.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony said the event “enhances India's status as a market for defence equipment and a major outsourcing destination… This is the biggest air show in the region.”

Tejas Mark II

Mr. Antony later said at a press conference that “Mark II” of the Tejas, the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft, “will be ready by 2015.” The government was “committed to going with Russia for the development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft… There is no question of going back on this.”

Referring to the competition for supplying the IAF with the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), Mr. Antony said: “There will be no political interference in the decision-making process.”

Significant show

The Minister said the significance of the show had increased considerably since it started in 1996. “The growing foreign participation in the event proves this.”

About 75,000 sq.m. has been earmarked for the show this time, compared to 45,000 sq.m. at the last show in 2009. More than 40 countries are participating in the show. Eight countries have set up dedicated pavilions. Aircraft participating in the show have access to 12 hangars at the Indian Air Force's base in Yelahanka, including seven temporary hangars created especially for the show.

Mr. Antony said although the government was committed to self-reliance, it was necessary to equip the armed forces with the latest defence equipment, systems and platforms. “We are open to joint ventures, public-private partnerships and licensed production to enable the transfer of technology.”

The recent amendments to the defence offset policy which give credit to foreign defence contractors even if they enter into civilian aircraft projects, “give better opportunities to foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs),” Mr. Antony said.

“We're committed”

Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said the government was “committed to giving full support” to the aerospace industry in the State. He said the aerospace industrial park near Devanahalli would “create a conducive environment for the growth of the industry.”

Manoeuvres

The highlight of the morning was the flight display in which several aircraft performed intricate manoeuvres. The Tejas, the Light Combat Aircraft, which flew in a formation in public view for the first time, was a key highlight. The Tejas, the smallest fighter aircraft in the world, drew whoops of delight as it made a vertical climb and then did a belly turn right in front of the podium. While five Jaguars flew in a V-formation, the Sukhoi 30-MKI flew in a trident formation. Boeing's F/A-18 (popularly known as the Super Hornet), the Gripen (by Saab, the Swedish aircraft maker) and the Rafale, by Dassault, the French aircraft manufacturer, also performed loops, rolls, and somersaults in the air.