An IDC Report 


New Delhi, 21 December 2003

Dubai is a bustling city with world-class facilities for business, travel and shopping, with a population of just under 3 million. Half are Indian expatriates. Dubai’s GDP is over $55 billion and it has a defence budget of over $2.5 billion, spent mainly on imports from the West. Several Officers and men from Pakistan’s Armed Forces have men are on deputation here.

The President of the United Arab Emirates HH Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayyan and the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai H.H. Shaikh Rashid Al Maktoum, have achieved much to make Dubai the undisputed aviation hub of the Middle East. Today the Emirates Airlines is the fastest growing airline in the East, and has just recruited 2000 staff for its expansion. It was with the aim to gain from the aviation business, that the Dubai Air Show was first hosted 16 years ago.

The extremely well attended 8th Aviation Air Show held from 7th to 11th December at the well laid out Dubai Exposition Buildings right next to the main airfield, gave a clear signal of the resurgence of the international aerospace community. The show which combined civil and military aviation was a benchmark to demonstrate the extent to which the civil and military aviation industry had bounced back after the 9/11 bombings of 2001. Except for Israel, almost all leading global aerospace companies from USA, France, UK, Europe, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, and Australia and smaller ones like Pakistan and Turkey were there to meet their military and business customers and to develop relationships. India was conspicuous by its absence and there was only one Indian publication company, which took a small stall and produced a Show Daily which was creditable.

Two-hour demonstrations and aerobatics by Mirages, SU 27s, Eurofighters, F-16s and F-18s and other military and civil aircraft took place daily in the post lunch period in clear skies.

Of particular note at this show were the large numbers of Arab exhibitors with expatriate staff taking part. There were 70 local companies and most of them had foreign collaborations for production and services in the UAE, which is a new development. The UAE has a small Air Force but it flies two squadrons of the Mirage 2000s and is all set to induct the E2C Hawkeye from Northrop Grumman and the F-16 Block D from Lockheed Martin now under final negotiations. Also new at the show this time around was the innovative Helicopter and Aviation Fire and Security pavilions. Helicopter travel and military business with Airborne Early Warning Systems and UAVs as force multipliers, have been added to every country’s shopping list, and five UAVs including the large Global Hawk with ground demonstrations were on display, and evinced keen interest.

Of special interest was Pakistan’s showing at the show which took a handsome pavilion in the center of one of the two huge halls under the banner of the Integrated Defence Systems of Pakistan, much like India’s DRDO, but much smaller. On display were Pakistan’s Nishan series of Aerial Target systems (somewhat like the Indian Lakshya). There were depictions of composite material home-built Vector Mk 2 UAVs with day and night IR cameras, which can operate for 4 hours up to 12,000 feet much like the DRDO’s Nishant. The Starfish naval ground mines, telemetry antennas and fuses and other products were also shown, but the main draw were the two Pakistani Air Force planes parked on the tarmac.

The Karakoram 8 Intermediate Jet Trainer, built in collaboration with the Chinese, was flown daily in standard aerobatics displays, by very proficient PAF pilots. The small Mushak, which has been adapted for firing guns and rockets was also displayed. On 10th December over 100 Pakistani Air Force and other service officers led by the Pakistani Vice Chief, Air Marshal Tanveer landed at the show from Karachi in a PAF 707 and went around the pavilions and displays. The keen interest shown by the Pakistani visitors to glean all the modern technology that was on display, and the interactions, indicated that the Pakistani Air Force has professionalism in their ranks and their showing at the Dubai air show was no mean achievement. Jokingly when the author complemented the General Manager of the IDS Group Captain Ijaz A Khan at his stall he was all for attending Aero India at Bangalore –– if invited, indicating a new atmosphere since the cease fire had been declared.

Dubai Airport Expansion

Few know that the Dubai airport expansion scheme is on and the design takes place in the Bechtel offices in Gurgaon near New Delhi. Global consultancy Bechtel Limited has just finalized the master plan for the new Doha International Airport. Akbar al-Baker, Chief Executive officer of the Project disclosed that tenders worth more than $2.5 billion will be awarded shortly for the construction of the ambitious project.

Construction companies even from India will soon be able to bid for the first phase of the new airport, the first phase of which is slated to be complete by 2008. To be built to the east of the present airport on land mostly reclaimed from the sea, the ambitious project is to be completed in 2015, in three phases.

Construction of the futuristic airport, which will have two parallel runways will start next year. The terminal will have 80 contact gates and the airport will be able to accommodate six A380-800 super jumbos, which Emirates Airlines were the first to order. The complex will also include three high classification hotels.

“The project has generated considerable interest amongst international construction majors, ever since it was formally announced at the World Travel Mart in London on November 10, 2003.
To be developed as a major aviation hub for traffic between Far East–Australasia and Europe–North America, the new airport will be so advanced that it would be a benchmark for future airports handling approximately 12 million passengers annually. Delhi and Mumbai airports can together handle only 4 million.


Indian airports can take a lesson from Dubai and Aero India can glean lessons from the Dubai Air Show while we still debate when to privatize the Indian airports.

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