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By Bulbul Singh

20 Feb 07. Aero India 2007 held at Bangalore February 7-11 emerged as Asia’s largest military aerospace exhibition which witnessed showcasing of new generation aerospace platforms and systems for India’s future $12bn military aviation procurement in the next five years.

According to Wing Commander Rajesh Dhingra, Joint Director of the Indian Government’s Defence Exhibition Organisation, the main organizers of Aero India 2007, “This year’s air show demonstrated a whole spectrum of military aviation products which will be bought by the Indian defense forces in the near future.”

The star attraction was the spectacular fly past of Russian MiG-35 aircraft which is pitching for the Indian Air Force’s $9bn acquisition of 126 medium range multi-role medium range combat aircraft [MMRCA] for which Saab of Sweden and Lockheed Martin of United States also demonstrated their Grippen and F-16 fighter jets.

Indian Air Force planners participation at Aero India 2007 said, “We have been able to get first hand inputs for the MMRCA program where a number of overseas companies showcased their platforms, avionics, communication systems, spares and industrial support systems and weaponry for our futuristic requirements.”

The Request for Information (RFI)was issued in December 2004 to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, MIG Corporation, SAAB and Dassault. However, the Request for Proposal [RFP], is still awaited, though the Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony announced at the Aero India Show that RFP will be issued soon. Sources in the Indian defence ministry said, the RFP is being delayed because for the first time life cycle costs are being evaluated for the aircraft which is taking some time.

The proposed acquisition of 126 MMRCA will not only bring in a giant leap in combat capabilities, but also will, “forge a new strategic relationship from the country from where we buy the MMRCA,” added the Indian Air Force planners.

Indian defense ministry officials attending Aero India 2007 said although MMRCA is the star program for the future, but we also saw some of the best static displayed of a number of systems which we indeed to procure for upgrades for Indian Air Force Jaguar, MiG-29 and Mirage 2000H fleet. Besides India is also looking for acquisition of long range maritime surveillance aircraft and anti submarine warfare helicopters for the India, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the defense forces, variety of new Electronic Warfare/Navigation’ Avionics systems for various platforms, multi-mission helicopters for the India Army and there a number of home-grown defense programs like AWACS where India’s is looking for suitable foreign collaboration.

The wish list of the Indian Air Force includes purchase of 126 MMRCA; around six C130J Hercules; six in-flight refueling aircraft; 80 MI 17 helicopters, 12 VIP helicopters; Medium lift helicopters, UAVs, rotary UAVS, a variety of advanced missiles, avionics, radar and air defense systems. The Indian Navy is looking to buy Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft and 16 Anti-Submarine Warfare helicopters to replace the aging Sea King helicopters.

Meanwhile the Indian defence ministry has rejected the P-3 C Orion and Russia’s IL –38 Maritime aircraft on grounds of obsolescence and instead is on a global hunt to buy newer platforms. A senior Indian Navy official said, the Navy is likely to invite Boeing and EADS to bring in their Maritime Surveillance Aircraft platforms for user trials.

Following the mandatory Offset clause introduced in July 2005 by the Indian defence ministry it is obligatory for a contractor to bring in offsets for a minimum of 30 per cent of the total amount of the contract above $65m. It is estimated that nearly $10bn worth of offsets will be generated in the next five to seven years

The defense ministry officials further added that Aero India 2007 also witnessed particip

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