Monday, 30 March 2015

Aero India starts with a bang and ends with a whimper

Aero India starts with a bang and ends with a whimper
By Sangeeta Saxena
Bangalore. As the skies became silent and Aero India came to an end ,there was an undeniable fact that this air show there was only one high flier and he was Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  The mantra of the show  was the  “Make in India” campaign and every  participating company was ready to outdo the others in it’s claim to offer technology transfers and finding Indian partners to become a part of the Prime Minister’s pet project.
Modi in his inaugural address  stressed that it will be no longer be enough to buy equipment and simply assemble them here. “We have been doing this in the past, without absorbing any technology or developing our own capabilities. In some areas, we are where we were three decades ago. Frankly, our public sector needs to do much better than they are doing now. We have to exploit their huge assets and a vast potential. At the same time, we have to make them accountable.”

 He reiterated , “India wants its offsets policy not as a means to export low-end products, but to acquire state-of-the art technology and skills in core areas of priority. Government's support for research and development is essential for defence sector. And, it should also be accompanied by a degree of assurance on purchase. We are introducing a scheme to provide up to 80% of funding from the Government for development of a prototype in India. And, we are also launching a Technology Development Fund. For too long, our research and development has been confined to government laboratories. We must involve our scientists, soldiers, academia, industry and independent experts more closely in research and development,” he said.

But unfortunately for a show which started with a bang ended with a whimper for business  as no mega deal was signed and no major announcements made. It was hopes all the way- Rafale hoping to sign the MMRCA contract very soon ad Russians hoping to ink the Fifth generation Fighter Aircraft  (FGFA) contract in the very near future.
The talk of the show were agreements and MOUs  signed and some small orders but the show stoppers were India's emerging micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Prime Minister Narendra Modi specially mentioned  one such MSME, Dynamatics Technologies Ltd. which is producing part of the airframe of Boeing’s Chinook, for sales globally. The company also handed over first airframe assembly for Bell-407at Aero India. And the icing on the cake is that  Dynamatics been selected to co-develop and produce the next generation of the US-made drone Raven.  Kalyani group also made its mark by announcing a joint venture with the Israeli defence major Rafael for producing parts of the Spike anti-tank missile, and another one with Premier Explosives Ltd for making high-energy propellants for missiles and  rocket motors.
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has signed a technology transfer agreement with Sagem (Safran) concerning the manufacture and maintenance in India of Sagem’s SIGMA 95 laser gyro navigation systems. HAL also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), Chennai for establishing a Chair at the institute for research activities in the aeronautics sector. AXISCADES Engineering Technologies and ASSYSTEM signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a strategic alliance to deliver enhanced values to Airbus Group. This collaboration will provide Airbus Group with a significant value addition for its projects in engineering services by two established ES2 preferred suppliers. BAE Systems  secured a five-year contract worth GBP 18.5 million to provide Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) a comprehensive package comprising Ground Support Equipment, Spares, Support and Training for the Hawk Mk132 advanced jet trainer. This is in support of HAL’s plans to establish a dedicated Repair & Overhaul facility for the aircraft in advance of a major servicing milestone anticipated in 2016.

Announcements which added a little sheen were  Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) receiving  an order from Elbit Systems Electro- Optical Elop Ltd. (Elop), of Israel, for the production of Elop’s Compact Multi-Purpose Advanced Stabilized Systems (CoMPASS). This is in addition to an earlier order for the supply of CoMPASS, received by BEL from Elop in 2014 and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) light combat helicopter (LCH) will be powered by the Ardiden 1H1 engine from Turbomeca (Safran group).

Defence Miister Manohar Parikkar said the government has been thinking of coming out with a separate policy for defence sector on ‘Make in India’. “We have been in discussions on whether Make in India should be outside the defence production procedure (DPP) and we will take a call soon on that.” The policy changes would be notified in April/May this year. In the next five years, we would like to have nearly 75 per cent of defence production under ‘Make in India’. The DPP itself needed clarity, he said and mentioned how there was confusion with regard to ‘Buy in India’ (which needed 30 per cent Indian composition); ‘Buy and Make in India’ (50 per cent). “The 50 per cent is not well defined.” Even Offsets the government was going through the document and major changes are expected soon. The policy will include small and medium enterprises in a substantial way.

The Telangana government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the ADS Group of Britain for cooperation and development of eco-system for aviation and defence sectors. Telangana's Industries Minister J. Krishna Rao had a series of meetings with leading global companies and urged them to prefer his state for their investments. Krishna Rao addressed a seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on Empowering and incentivising Indian MSMEs in defence and aerospace sector.
Pitching for Andhra Pradesh to becoming a major defence and aerospace hub Chief Minister Chandra Babu  Naidu said, " We've already received investment proposals from the defence PSUs like BEL, R&D units of DRDO and so on. Our government is also collaborating with the Singapore government to create a master plan for the new capital in the Vijayawada region, and it will have all hi-tech facilities. Our  government has plans to attract mega projects and industrial parks in the area of defence manufacturing. This will also include sub-segments of the defence segment like SMEs and component makers and segments of air cargo, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and general aviation.”

The  Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Sukhoi-30, Mirage-2000, Jaguar and the Advance Jet Trainer (AJT) Hawk  were seen both in the sky as well as on the tarmac.  French aerospace major Dassault Aviation flew its medium multi-role combat aircraft Rafale reminding the government that its time to ink the deal. The IAF pilots also flew the Advance Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv as Sarang aerobatics team, heavy-lift transport plane C-17 Globemaster-III of the Boeing and the Russian-made Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft. Daredevilry feats by Flying Bulls of Czech Republic, AeroSuper Baltics and Aerowind Services from Britain, Scandinavian air show team Wasp and Open Skydiving of the US Special Forces drew cheers from the spectators. In all, 72 military aircraft are on flying and static display, including P8-A maritime reconnaissance aircraft and KC-135 tanker of Boeing and EMB-145 Embraer from Brazil. In addition, 17 types of civil aircraft, including business jets and helicopters are on display for hard selling in the growing Indian aviation market. The open sky jump by USA Special Forces was among the  top draws. Other than the Breitling Wingwalkers, Scandinavian Aerobatic team, known as skycats were the only other team to perform on the wings of an aircraft. Skycats used a bright yellow plane named Catwalk and performed on its wings.

Business aircraft manufacturers from this Aero India. Apart from  Dassault which  exhibited its Falcon 7X and Falcon 2000LXS models, both Gulfstream and Bombardier were conspicuous  by their absence. Textron showed only a special-missions version of its King Air 350 twin turboprop and Embraer displayed an ERJ-145 equipped for military surveillance roles. Russia’s Sukhoi was present, and it showed a VIP-configured example of its Superjet 100 twinjet.

The last two days of the show turned into a jamboree  as nearly three lakh people  thronged to witness the aerial feast. And the show this year also witnessed anxious moments when two pilots of Red Bulls aerobatic team of the Czech Republic miraculously escaped on the second day after their aircraft touched wings in mid-air while doing stunts. The aircraft landed safely but with their wings damaged.


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