The Hindu explains

What is the Aero India show?

What is it about?

It is an unusual line-up, not very easily seen elsewhere in the world. The majestic Russian Sukhoi-30, the highly advanced French war-plane Rafale, and the American warhorse F-16, all streaking across the sky, with an occasional sonic boom signalling their friendly banter over Bengaluru.

Every two years, in February, most of the global manufacturers in the aerospace industry assemble in the south Indian city to parade their finest products. Their aim — to entice one of the world’s biggest military spenders, which is also home to several dozen rich who count private aircraft and helicopters among necessities of life. This year’s show, at the Yelahanka Air Force Station, was significantly focussed on indigenous platforms — it was also a fait accompli because of the dull global interests compared to the previous years. India’s first indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS), called Netra and mounted on a Brazilian Embraer 145 jet, was handed over to the Indian Air Force, and the Light Utility Helicopter developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was on display for the first time. However, the real attractions were the aerobatics teams. The Indian Air Force’s ‘Surya Kiran’ aerobatic team made a comeback after six years, for the first time flying Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT). Yakovlev aerobatic team, Skycats, from the UK, and the Sarang helicopter display team also put up impressive shows.

How did it happen?

Started in 1996, Aero India is among the world’s biggest aerospace shows. This year’s was the 11th edition, featuring 549 exhibitors compared with 644 companies in 2015. The exhibition began on a low key, but as India opened up its purse strings after the Kargil conflict to become a major buyer in the global arms bazaar, companies began to flock to Bangalore for Aero India and to New Delhi, where Defexpo showcases land and naval systems.

In the past decade, India has emerged among the world’s biggest importers of arms. According to data from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2006-10 and 2011-15, India’s arms imports increased by 90%, and it was the world’s largest importer of weapons and military equipment in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

With no great success in designing indigenous war machines, India has come to depend upon foreign manufacturers for most key components of a modern military. In a feeble show of its growing indigenous capability, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa took to the sky in a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas trainer on day one of the show.

Why does it matter?

Some of the most expensive items ever bought by the Indian government with taxpayer’s money are those on display at the Aero India. For example, each Rafale fighter that the IAF will get from France is worth over ₹1,500 crore. Almost 14% of the Central government spending goes to the military. The present trend of India being a major importer of arms will continue for years to come, until indigenous military research and development pulls out of the present depressing realities. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar says India requires over 400 single and double-engine fighter aircraft in the near term. There is also a requirement of over 1,000 helicopters. A significant number of them will have to be bought from abroad.

What next?

Ideally, Aero India is where India should be displaying its indigenously developed aerospace platforms. There is no reason why it cannot — India is already a leading space power, and it has significant budget and huge appetite for fighters, helicopters, UAVs and other aerospace platforms. Sadly, more than a century after the first aircraft took to the skies, India is yet to design its own credible aircraft. Thanks to that appalling reality, Aero India will, for a long time to come, remain the exhibition where the world’s aerospace giants will show off to India.


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 2:35:19 PM |

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