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Aero India show begins on Wednesday; global firms to pitch for major deals
Fakir Chand in Bangalore | February 04, 2003 19:04 IST
Countdown to the fourth edition of Aero India has began in right earnest with global aerospace and aviation firms descending on Bangalore to showcase their aircraft, products and technologies at the five-day exposition beginning Wednesday.
Billed as one of the largest air shows in South Asia, the biennial event will witness a show of strength and skills by 176 companies from 22 countries across the world to pitch for multi-billion dollar deals and collaborative ventures with Indian aerospace industry and aviation players.
Organised by the defence ministry in association with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the Indian Air Force, the department of space, and the Union civil aviation ministry, Aero India 2003 is being held at the IAF base station in Yelahanka on the outskirts of Bangalore from February 5-9.
Defence Minister George Fernandes will inaugurate the event and witness the spectacular display of air power by about 70 aircraft, including 16 from overseas countries.
About 50 delegations from the United States, Europe, Russia, Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Africa are visiting Bangalore for the event.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is also leading a French delegation to witness the event.
Some of the aircraft that will participate in the flying display are India's own fighter jet light combat aircraft; the advance trainer jet Hawk of the British aerospace company; the supersonic Sukhoi-30 MK1, MiG 29 M2 and MiG 21 of Russia; Mirage 2000 and Jaguar Strike of France; Transsall C-160 of Germany, and the military variants of the advanced light helicopter.
The decision of the Indian government to open up the hitherto exclusive defence sector to private enterprise with a 26 per cent foreign equity has attracted several reputed companies from the United Kingdom, the US, Russia, Israel, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada, South Africa, Singapore and other countries to participate in the mega show.
"The defence ministry so far has received proposals from 11 Indian private companies, including a few in the aviation field, for setting up joint ventures with foreign collaboration to produce critical aerospace components and accessories," defence production and supplies secretary N S Sisodia told rediff.com in Bangalore on Tuesday.
"The proposals are being evaluated by the ministry, keeping in view India's strategic interests and regulations governing such industry participation," he said.
The Indian software industry has already made a global impact in the services sector. Leading Indian defence organisations such as DRDO and the Aeronautical Development Agency have developed avionics software for fighter aircraft like Sukhoi-30 MK1, MiG versions, and Mirage.
Global aerospace and aviation firms have also evinced interest in outsourcing their avionics requirements and other software solutions from Indian enterprises.
"Though major Indian IT companies like Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services have forayed into aviation software in collaboration with defence organizations to design and develop avionics modules and software solutions, the potential to tap the global aerospace and aviation market in this segment is enormous in view of our competitive pricing and low-cost skills for outsourcing," Sisodia stated.
For instance, the Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, the largest aerospace public sector enterprise in Asia, will sign a major deal at the air show with the Israeli Aircraft Industry to equip its latest flagship product, the Advanced Light Helicopter, with avionics modules and weapons.
According to sources, the military and civilian versions of ALH will be globally marketed jointly by HAL and IAI through a 50:50 joint venture.
About 10 ALHs, christened Dhruv, have already been bought by the three Indian defence services: the IAF, the army, and the navy, besides the Indian Coast Guard for rescue and relief operations.
"The civilian version of the ALH is ready for certification. Its air-worthiness is being evaluated by the international certifying agencies. The Israeli Aircraft Industry will also equip the ALHs with the latest avionics and upgrade them with guns and short-range missiles to make them operational in battlefield," said sources.
"The Indian defence services have placed orders for the delivery of weapon-graded ALHs," HAL officials told rediff.com.
HAL will also sign an agreement with the leading French aerospace company, Turbomeca, for co-producing its TM333 turboshaft engines for the ALH series in India.
After their conspicuous absence in the previous two aero shows on account of post-Pokhran sanctions, major US aerospace companies, including Lockheed Martin, GE Aircraft Engines, Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, and Boeing are back at the event to hardsell their products and technologies.
With the Indian government yet to decide on the selection of the advanced jet trainer for the IAF, BAE Systems Plc of the UK, which produces the prestigious Hawk, is also making a major presence at the aero show.
Though the last word on the much-awaited AJT deal has not been said in spite of decade-long negotiations, including pricing, the British government is making frantic efforts to clinch the deal on behalf of BAE Systems.
Its minister for defence procurement Lord Bach of Lutterworth is leading a delegation to the aero show.
About 70 Indian companies, including public sector undertakings under the defence ministry, the ordnance factory board, and R&D centres are also participating.The aerospace exposition has been specifically designed to profile the entire spectrum of aeronautical industry and will have on display military and civil aircraft, weapon systems, instrument landing systems, airport equipment, communication systems, as well as equipment relevant to the space industry.