Show Is On: Fighter India Takes Off

Show Is On: Fighter India Takes Off

HAL/ADA Tejas was the STAR of the show during Aero India 2017

It’s the inglorious tag of ‘world’s biggest importer’ that saw such high-profile attendance at the Aero-India show in Bangalore. The interface between Indian manufacturers and foreign big players is aimed at creating a local industry where hi-tech defense assets could be built.

Drones The Way Ahead

Indian armed forces are looking at 5,000 ‘eyes in the skies’ – armed and unarmed — drones and airborne radars

These can constantly beam in live surveillance pictures and videos to warn of incoming threats

The MoD blueprint is looking at a variety of UAVs

In the race are Boeing, Textron, General Atomics, Elbit, Israel Aerospace Industries. They are looking to partner Indian companies

Another 1,500 mini UAV’s are needed for which US company Boeing is pitching for its ScanEagle

Needed: 100 Predator drones, both the armed version and for surveillance, manufactured by General Atomics.

The US has said it would export 22 unarmed Predator drones following an Indian Navy request

The bigger story could be unfolding: DRDO is developing autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV). It will be capable of releasing missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions.

It took us long to understand that defense is big trade: you give something and take something in return — for ever-evolving ‘strategic’ needs. That’s why so many ‘deals’ and so many arms manufacturers chasing the government for one contract or the other. For a layman, the Sweden-based think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its five-year (2012-2016) assessment, saying “India was the largest importer of major arms in 2012-16, accounting for 13% of the global total.”

And in 2007-11, India purchased some $12.7 billion (about Rs 80,000 crore) in arms, 80% of that from Russia, said SIPRI. Uday Bhaskar, a retired commodore and leading strategic analyst, criticizes India’s weapons procurement policy. “Fifty years after the debacle with China, the opaque Indian establishment does not produce high-quality clothing and personal inventory items like boots, let alone a suitable rifle for a one-million army, or tanks and aircraft,” Bhaskar was quoted as saying.

But dream we must, the dream to be self-reliant in military equipment production. Foreign collaborations promising more local jobs in top-of-the-line defense firms are welcome for the ‘make in India’ projects.

So what do we do? Organize shows, where our defense establishment gets face-to-face with the latest technology. Buying, or planning to buy something, this way might prompt some selling as well. That’s why the significance of Aero-India show — the two-decade-old biennial show of military aviation — in Bangalore, held recently. For foreigners, the slice in the Indian pie is the $100 billion spend New Delhi plans to incur on new weapons and equipment over the next decade.

The 11th edition of the five-day show (Feb 14-Feb 18) attracted 549 exhibitors, including global leaders with their planes, helicopters and the very latest in unmanned systems.

In these past two decades, Aero-India has been held in the backdrop of big-ticket purchases by India. This year was no different. Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar has said: “India needs some 300-400 fighter jets and some 800 helicopters for the Services (Army, IAF, the Navy and the Coast Guard”.

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