An IDC On The Spot Report


New Delhi, 01 March 2002

Asian Aerospace is Asia's biggest Air Exhibition and a true showcase of Singapore, which has become the hub of aviation in the East and growing cleverly while its big neighbour India grapples with disinvestment and complicated regulations and temples to be built on the Babri mosque site at Ayodhya. The riots in Gujrat were the worrying flavour of the week here in Singapore where AA 2002 was on. Despite a downturn in the economies of the world and South East Asia, the response at AA 2002 was just some 5% less than the show held in 2000, which was considered excellent as most Airlines are struggling. However Singapore reported a 5% growth in the fourth quarter and that was good news. The AA show being reported by IDC from the Site was six to seven times the size of Aero India held at Bangalore and the long Flying Displays were world class, enthralling and so far accident free. The weather has been kind. The professionalism at the show and at the many briefings was very evident.


The show got off to a great start on 25th Feb ’02 evening, with Mr. Tony Tan, the Dy PM of Singapore hosting the Opening Ceremony at the SUNTEC city that Singaporeans are very proud of. He is also the Defence Minister and a loyalist of former PM Lee Kuan Yew and one who knows Education and Total Defence well. The area of the show is an exhibition-cum-hotel complex of world class quality in the centre of the city. REED partnered Singapore for the show on commercial lines, but official delegations from most countries were invited.

Singapore has a Defence Budget of over $4 billion and that surprised many and it was perhaps the most heavily defended city in the world. India can learn a lot from small Singapore –– just when its ships led by RSS Endurance were on their way to exercise with the Indian Navy. Earlier Singapore, which has two submarines, used to pay for the exercises but then some Babu tried to calculate the costs and confused the Indian Navy, who then cleverly converted these into bilateral exercises and both Navies gain immensely! One IN navigator is on loan to the Singapore Navy and earlier the IAF had trained the Singapore Air Force. Hence friendships and roots were strong and Singapore looks up to India in many ways. This is the backdrop.
The Asia Pacific Security Conference had been held earlier and that was sensible –– as at DEFEXPO the Conference was held concurrently with the show, which led to distractions. The evening ceremony was followed by Dinner and the guests were all togged up in Military Regalia. They included Defence Ministers, Chiefs of Staff and senior officers from some 62 countries. The invitees who included diplomats and the top echelons of Defence businesses from around the world had come to attend the show.

The big item to report is that not a single Indian Armed Forces officer was present and that does not behove well for India's reputation. IDC learned that since the Indian armed forces were mobilised and war could be imminent, the PMO/MOD cancelled the delegation’s visit at the last minute, which was booked and was to be led by the IAF top brass. Well that adds another chapter to how Defence matters and issues of importance are treated flippantly in India. Surely the mid-level officers could have been sent as the exposure is vast, beneficial and eye opening. The aviation branches of the three services were the losers and no wonder we take blinkered decisions as our politicians have no understanding of defence matters.

Some one should stand up to MOD and explain that Asian Aerospace show cases the world's best and if India wants to be a player on the international stage, it must take mature decisions. More and more officers must be exposed to the world's best in aviation and other technologies and also see how other countries including China are moving ahead while we remain complacent. This faux pas must be noted so that it is not repeated.

Pakistan sent two officers of one-star level, a pilot who had flown F-6s i.e. Chinese MIG 19/21 and another Air Defence senior officer. Bangla Desh and Sri Lanka were there in strength including their Chiefs. The rest of the world was there at the opening ceremony.

The next day under excellent arrangements the VIPs shifted to view the planes, wares and trappings at the sprawling Changi Exhibition grounds near the new Changi Naval base that the US Navy and others use for berthing aircraft carriers. The impressive entrance had the F- 35 Joint Strike fighter of Lockheed and the Typhoon Eurofighter –– to delight the professional's eyes as they entered the show venue. Two of the world's most modern fighters were on display and explained in detail to viewers and much intelligence could also be gathered for India’s LCA. The other modern aircraft -- the French Rafael flew alongside the F- 15 and the F-16 and the engine roars with after burners were impressive and the crowds enjoyed the flying displays as the VIPs lunched in the viewing pavillions and Chalets of Singapore Technologies. All the top Aviation giants, weapons suppliers and defence companies of the world were lined up with Stalls and Chalets –– where they entertained and conducted aviation business with the epitome of professional competition.

The Taiwanese, Indonesians and the Chinese were also there and CATIC had a Chalet. Food and drink especially beer flowed and Bombardier hosted a totally generous media lounge and this report was filed courtesy the Lounge and deserves compliments. The show was very well organised and Singapore announced the next show in 2004 will be at a bigger and better venue, as they reclaim land and convert marshes into money spinning and clean environments.

The second Minister of Defence Teo Chee Hean ex-Harvard who was Singapore's CNS and has risen high, was also at hand mingling with the VIPs and CEOs. As in all AA's, Singapore Technologies which exports to 20 countries, held the pride of place in Hall A and showed off its FH 2000 155mm Howitzer which is 52 Cal but Singapore surprisingly did not bid for the Indian contract. IDC learned that only SOLTAM of Israel with ATMOS, South Africa with the G5 and Sweden with the 155mm 52 Cal have bid. Even GIAT of France had not bid. Singapore showed off all its aviation upgrades including F-16s, multi function displays and the helicopter capabilities, Shrike anti-tank buster and the stealth patrol boats. ST is an impressive company but has avoided India for some reason, but IDC learned they wish to enter the market as they are competitive

At the show the wide bodied jets were displayed and hawked by the arch enemies Airbus and Boeing and their press briefings were interesting as they tend to go for each other's throat. The engine manufacturers Rolls Royce, SNECMA and Honeywell were there along with Pratt and Whitney. The regional jets were there from Bombardier, Gulf Stream, Cessna and AN-38 from Russia giving rides to the media and the Chinese showing off the MA 90. The tarmac was full of the F16s, F18s,. Mirages and some 30 other helicopters and planes, led by USA.

IDC viewed the 6-ton Seasprite from Kaman and the 10-ton Seahawk from Sirkosky, who said they were ready to do business with India. India's traditional supplier Westland Agusta were there and were waiting to reopen business as soon as Uncle Sam's system agreed to give the licenses.

The Military transport aircraft were there and HAL showed a model of the Russian Irkutsk. Aeronautic equipment manufacturers, freighter converters, space companies including Ariane, EADS and the Chinese Great Wall group with displays of their solid and liquid fuel launchers and INTELSAT, showed off the latest in their technologies. ISRO was not present. In the civil and defence systems missiles including Russian electronics, telecommunications and array of ship and aircraft equipment were on display and the absence of the Indian team was India's loss.

Indian Presence

The India Pavilion was in Hall C and it was put up in a combined manner by HAL, DRDO, NAL and BEL and had the normal wares we read about and saw at DEFEXPO. The LCA, ALH, NISHANT, Lakshaya full size and allied equipment of EW and communications with the Indo-Russian Transporter model were on display. The Chairman of HAL Shri N K Mohanty proudly announced the following and said his order book was overfull and he would now get his ex-employees to do sub contracts and outsource a lot of work as HAL is full to the hilt. The IAF had ordered 10 upgraded Jaguar twin seaters, (which were presumably for maritime/nuclear strike with Sea Eagles) and 20 single seaters for attack.

HAL was opening a new Engine Factory at Koraput in Orissa and as reported earlier, the engine factory makes the MIG 21/27 engine and assembles the MIG 29 engines and overhauls them all. They will now make the SU MkI AL31 P engine and HAL will be the only factory in the world that makes all the parts for the engines. It was Shri Biju Patnaik who gave the push for the setting up of the factory in that remote area.

The SU 30MkI drawings had arrived at the Customs in India and preliminary work for assembling 140 of these machines, which have Indian, Israeli and French equipment, had begun. The first Indian MkI will roll out in 2004. The programme and cooperation is well under way and IDC noted that this programme was sealed and signed by three successive Governments and was running smoothly.

The Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard had ordered several more Dornier 228s and ATR 42MR is also being offered to the Coast Guard. India has 76 Dorneir 228s.

The Navy, Coast Guard and the Army will receive their first lot of ALHs by the end of the financial year –– two have already been delivered to the Army.

The Army had ordered the 12 Lancers based on the Lama design and Intermediate Jet Trainer will fly by the year end as the Lazarc engine supplied by Snecma, will be with HAL by June.

The LCA according to the Chairman is now well on its way as the US components including the GE 404 engine had been cleared for delivery. The Kaveri engine even if completed would take years for certification and so it was announced that the GOI/MOD had placed an order for 8 LCAs as a limited series production contract. The foreign media looked at this as a method of funding the project!

With so much happening for HAL and India, it was a pity that the representation by uniformed Armed Forces at this premier and important show was nil. However, the Indian media with VAYU, International Aerospace, Indian Aviation, yours truly IDC, and a lot of Agents who represent foreign firms, thronged the show and learnt much in a few days here, which may otherwise have take months.

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