Modi to inaugurate Aero India 2023 in Bengaluru today - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 12 February 2023

Modi to inaugurate Aero India 2023 in Bengaluru today


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 13th Feb 23


The day before the inauguration of the 14th Aero India 2023 – billed by the ministry of defence (MoD) as Asia’s largest aerospace and defence (A&D) exposition – Bangalore is abuzz with activity.


With Prime Minister Narendra Modi scheduled to fly down from his capital city to India’s aerospace capital, Bengaluru, exhibitors are throwing in everything to make their displays just so. Defence executives in sharp suits go over their sales pitches; aircraft technicians tune their flying machines to coax out a maximum performance, while fighter pilots pull off one last aerobatics rehearsal that makes daredevilry seem commonplace.


The MoD can be satisfied with the attendance numbers. 809 companies are exhibiting in Aero India 2023, of which 699 are Indian and 110 are foreign.


This is the biggest-ever Aero India show, says Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Compared to 23,000 square metres of display space taken up by vendors in the previous Aero India in 2021, this edition has sold out 35,000 square metres.


The Aero India logo is everywhere, its tagline – “The runway to a billion opportunities – eliminating all doubt about which country is the premium buyer. Each of the giant arms producers, referred to as “original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs), pay obeisance to Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). But the figures are more ambivalent.

Take aircraft sourced from The Boeing Company. In the military aircraft category, India operates 11 C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, 22 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters (with six more on order), 15 CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters, 12 P-8I Orions, three VVIP business jets, and two “heads of state” aircraft. Every one of these has been bought ready built by Boeing.


The same is true for civil airliners. India’s commercial airlines operate more than 150 Boeing airplanes, including the Next-Generation 737, 737 MAX, 757, 777, and 787 Dreamliner. Only a tiny part of them has been built in India.


Even so, there has been progress in sourcing from India.


“Boeing has strengthened its supply chain with more than 300 local companies in India and a joint venture to manufacture fuselages for Apache helicopters and vertical fin structures for the 737 family of airplanes,” says a company statement.


“Annual sourcing from India stands at over $1 billion. Boeing currently employs over 5,000 people in India, and more than 13,000 people work with its supply chain partners. Boeing’s employee efforts and country-wide engagement… make an impact on more than 500,000 lives,” it says.


The Indigenous defence aircraft and technologies on display are being fielded mainly by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). The Indian Pavilion showcases over 330 products categorised into 12 zones, such as combat aircraft and unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs), missiles and strategic systems, engines, electronic warfare systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber systems. 


The DRDO’s flagship products on display are: the 5th generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, the Tejas Mark 2 light combat aircraft (LCA), the Akash, Astra, Helina, Nag and Pralay missiles, the Kaveri dry engine prototype, Netra Airborne Early Warning and Control system. 


Aero India 2023 will feature the flying debut of the TAPAS-BH (Tactical Aerial Platform for Advanced Surveillance - Beyond the Horizon), which is an indigenous medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV. The TAPAS-BH will cover the static and aerial displays, with its live video streamed throughout the venue. TAPAS is the DRDO's solution to the tri services intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) requirements. It is capable of operating at altitudes up to 28,000 feet, on missions that can last over 18 hours. 


Other companies, such as Airbus, are using the exposition as a high-visibility opportunity for recruiting Indian employees. Terming it a “public meet-and-greet event aimed at recruiting engineering and information technology talent,” the company says candidates “can explore career opportunities in airframe design, avionics, aircraft systems simulation, data analytics, cybersecurity and cabin engineering.”



Aero India 2023 to focus on “Made in India”


·      Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance) in aerospace will be the theme of India’s defence industry


·      The central theme of the India Pavilion will be the development of a “fixed wing platform”


·      A full-scale Tejas fighter will be the central display in the India Pavilion


·      Displayed around the Tejas will be the components of a fixed wing aircraft eco-system


·      In addition, 115 companies will showcase 227 “Made in India” products


·      This will be the largest-ever Aero India, with 35,000 square metres of display space, compared to 23,000 square metres in Aero India 2021



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