An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 04 April 2005

Aero India in February was a resounding success at Bangalore and the international and national media had not made much of it because the nation and political parties were more interested in the Budget, results of the elections in the states of Bihar, Haryana and Jharkand (this was the last chance for the BJP to make a dent!). 

We therefore record the highlights of the Aero India 2005. Inquiries for more foreign training and interest in Indian military hardware including the Akash had increased and a sampling of those who attended AERO INDIA and held discussions with the Defence Minister and other authorities was now emerging.

Among the 29 foreign delegations that received the traditional Indian hospitality, the prominent VIPs who attended were:

(a)         Air Commodore Mark Binskin, Commander Air Combat Group, Royal Australian Air Force

(b)         Maj Gen T.H.C. Masire, Chief of Staff Air Arm, Botswana Defence Force.

(c)         Lt Gen Steve Lucas, Speciall Adviser to Chief of Defence, Canada.

(d)         General Osvaldo Sarabia Vilches, Commander in Chief of the Air Force, Chile.

(e)         Air Vice Marshal Zhu Xinwen from China.

(f)           Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor, Minister of Defence, Ghana.

(g)         Maj Gen (Res) Amos Yaron from Israel.

(h)         Hon’ble Salvatore Cicu, Deputy Defence Minister, Italy.

(i)           Col Sultenbakov Kuat Tulaukekovich, Dy Chief of Air Defence Forces, Kazakistan.

(j)           Gen Datuk Nik Ismail bin Nik Mohamed Chief of Air Force, Malaysia.

(k)         Mayor Gen FAP Juan Morante Bardelli Vice Minister of Defence, Peru.

(l)           Air Marshal GD Perera, Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force.

(m)       Lt Gen Victos Renuart, Vice Chief of US Pacific Air Force and

(n)         Lord Bach, UK Minister of Defence Procurement.

The main highlights of the show that attracted attention were:

  • Air Chief ACM S P Tyagi made a public announcement that the IAF would soon order from HAL 20 plus 20 Tejas AJTs with GE 404 engines worth almost $1b, to be delivered beginning 2008, which was an optimistic date, as the plane is still to be weaponised and the announcement led to a lot of speculation in the media. The first 20 have been ordered and budgeted from the IAF Budget.

  • The IAF was set to acquire 126 fighters from 2008 onwards to replace the MiG 21s worth $3b and the competition is between the Mirage 2000-5, SAAB’s Grippen, USA’s F 16 and the MiG 29 M2 –– all have been asked to provide details. All companies were seen keen to offer collaborations to HAL and the Russians explained the commonalities of the offer with the MiG 29Ks that the Indian Navy was set to acquire and displayed their latest six motion MiG 29 simulator and the range of missiles that can be fitted out. Young IAF pilots queued up to test their skills in BVR combat. However the IAF’s preferred choice appeared to be the Mirage 2000-5, as the extended inventory is causing the IAF many challenges, and the experience of the IAF with two squadrons of Mirage 2000 has been good and it will be easy to assimilate more, including training. India was looking seriously to buy 12 Mirage 2000-V from Qatar. Recently USA had offered the F 18s and some assembly lines. If financial terms are good India should consider it for the technology that comes with these aircraft. It will help the LCA too.

  • Israel had recently become India’s second largest supplier of military hardware and the thrust was led by IAI, which had collaboration with HAL and its subsidiary ELTA. Israel was now sure of supplying more Searcher and Heron UAVs, Barak AA missile systems with the EL/M 2221 STGR radar which builds the tactical picture, Derby BVR missiles, EL/M 2022 and 2032 radars, ‘Head Up’ displays and EW and communication suites. The offer of Arrow anti missile system was also on the table, besides the confirmed order of three Phalcon AEW systems to be fitted on the IL 76 platforms and AEROSTATS for the Western Air Command. The first lot of Helium filled early warning Aerostats had arrived in India and IAI/ELTA and Tadiran stalls were impressive with their latest range of products. Rafael had offered the Python BVR missile and its new Reccelite multi purpose pod to the IAF. The IAF already employs the Litening pod on a variety of their fighters. Rafael also showed details of the Britening directed infrared beam device. BVR displayed details of their ACMI and chaff systems.

  • USA parked their PC 3 Orion and CNS Admiral Arun Prakash was in USA to probe this and look at the DSRV which the USA had offered. He is also likely to confirm the offer of USA to provide submarine rescue facilities for which the IN has paid the USN $100,000 for the study. In the interim the Navy is getting 11 Dorniers. The deployment and operational role of MR/ASW platforms in peacetime traditionally had very little effect. The task of multi-national naval cooperation in the operational theatre should thus fall on Indian Navy MR/ASW platforms, monitoring surface and sub-surface vessels in and around the Indian Ocean, as a way of providing early warning of possible confrontation or conflict and distribution of naval units. Japan also wants to be brought in. China can be kept out then. See our piece on China’s maritime interests.

  • The IAF feels they can exploit C 130Js on offer to India, better than the Americans with greater loads to Siachen. US Ambassador David C Mulford was at the show and USA’s Lt Gen Victos Renuhart showed great interest when he was shown around the SU 30 MKI. The IAF pilots and aircrew showed interest in looking at the F 15Es, having exercised with the F15Cs at Gawalior. Lockheed Martin was making a come back in India and signed a technical agreement with HAL for support to PC 3 Orions, in anticipation. The French had offered the Atlantique 2 as the IL38s and TU 142 of the Indian inventory are aging and two IL 38s are in Russia for Sea Dragon upgrade.

  • The BrahMos Aerospace stall attracted many foreign visitors as this company was set to export the naval and land version supersonic missile jointly with Russia, and had made an offer to modify the SU 30 MKI to take on a lighter version of the missile. The Russians will lead the project design and enhanced funds were available. The HAL, DRDO and Bharat Electronics pavilion displayed all their achievements and the HAL stall had a model of the armed version of the ALH for the Army. They also distributed brochures of their proposed twin-engine tandem seat Combat Aircraft Trainer (CAT) with transonic speed and were trying to convince the IAF to fund the project.

  • The IAF was making a further pitch to form an Aerospace Command and to also control civilian radars for full coverage of the air space, which was evident at the show and the accompanying seminar. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was at hand to depict the rapid strides India had made in space and IAF looks to collaborations.

  • BAE Systems had a large pavilion and displayed the Mil MI 172 mock up and other products looking at the market in India, having bagged the 66 AJT contract. The Chief of Air Staff and C-in-C Training Command had sorties in the Hawk 100 as co-pilots.

  • The IAF had provided QRs and funded studies on a Light Combat Helicopter to HAL, but the Indian Army was keen on having its own integral attack helicopter fleet to cope with its doctrine, and the issue was touchy from the inter services point of view.

  • From France, SNECMA and Turbomecca had done well in India with supplies of engines and had joint ventures with HAL. CFM that supplies engines for airliners was at the show and Chairman of SNECMA Jean Paul Bechat was at hand to take the press conference. EADS Vice President Christian Duhain explained the prospects in India with 43 Airbus 320s already contracted and many more in competition with Boeing also at the show. ATR from southern France had made good inroads into the civil aviation market in India with over 12 aircraft already flying and more on order.

  • MBDA had a large stall and had offered the MICA missile to the IAF, Aster to the Navy and the Army was set to install the Mistral ATGM missile system on their Armed ALH with GIAT’s 200mm gun and FZ Belgiums rocket launcher. The Cheetal (Lama) helicopter had been re-engined with the TM 333 M2. MBDA signed an MOU with Bharat Dynamics Ltd for the upgrade of Milan 2 missile production, having already supplied some 30,000 to the Army.

  • India’s strongest strategic partner Russia led by Rosboronexport displayed a range of missiles, plane models and hardware but officials admitted that the competition was becoming more difficult and emphasized their reliability. Former Air Chief ACM A Y Tipnis had openly stated in an article that India must be wary of buying hardware from USA as their reliability was still to be tested, and supported Rusian acquisitions for the time being. This was also played up at the show. Details of the new light weight BARS 29 radar adapted from the N011 BARS installed in the SU 30 MKI and proposed for the Mig 29M, was displayed as an upgrade for the Indian MiG 29s.

  • Embraer at the show was upbeat as it was set to supply the 5 Legacy 135 VIP transport planes to India in 2005 and signed an MOU with DRDO to assist in DRDO’s EW and Control aircraft indigenous programme recently sanctioned, and the collaboration could lead to supply of three 145 platforms, slated to be a $500 million programme.

  • DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) displayed the Kaveri engine, which was undergoing trails for India’s LCA and facing rough weather in Russia and India as it had not performed at high altitudes. DRDO also displayed the medium range Akaash AA missile with Indira radar, which was completing trials and will be offered to the IAF and Army, Nishant UAV and Lakshya aerial target.

  • Flight Refueling indicated that they would be supplying the fuelling pods for the SU 30MKI for buddy fuelling. Israel had supplied the system for the 6 IL 78s the IAF uses supposedly from experience gained from Sergeant Fletcher of USA.

  • QUEST a global engineering provider displayed a full-scale light weight model of the LCA PV 2 equipped with cockpit internals, lighting, nose and main landing gear, moveable control surfaces made in India for Aeronautical Development Establishment. This would also be displayed at international shows. 

  • AMS a joint BAE Finmeccanica company announced it had signed a marketing agreement with Macmet a leading Indian simulator supplier to the services, which had also bagged an order for the submarine motion control simulator for the ATV project –– India’s nuclear submarine programme.


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