|Shweta Sehgal||Published: February 2017|
NEW DELHI. It’s time again to paint the Bangalore sky red. The air carnival where the sun doesn’t set is here again! The eleventh edition of Asia’s biggest and the most talked about show, Aero India 2017 starts February 14, at Yelahanka Air Force Station.
Our desi birds are back in the game after a gap of six years. Indian Air Force’s very own rejuvenated aerobatic team Surya Kiran’ will be the show stopper for the show. “We are thrilled to perform over the skies of Bangalore. This is the first time we will be performing in the Bangalore air show with Hawk aircraft and we have prepared a flight plan of 18-20 minutes. For the first time, the team is ready with horizontal and vertical manoeuvers and, as per the visibility, the team will be performing the stunts”, a senior pilot from the Surya Kiran team said.
The revived Surya Kirans are flying newly inducted British hawks which are assembled by HAL and are better and faster than Kiran Mark-II planes which the erstwhile team used to fly. Still in a build-up phase, the team is presently flying with four aircraft but plans to grow into a nine-aircraft formation aerobatic team the same way it had done in its earlier avatar with Kiran Mark-IIs. Incidentally, the world famous RAF ‘Red Arrows’ nine-aircraft formation aerobatic team also flies the Hawk AJT.
Began in 1996, Aero India has been gradually growing with each edition. With more countries participating, more delegates, more aircraft and a larger public footfall on the last two days, the venue seems to be bursting.
To be inaugurated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in the presence of Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah, Defence Secretary Mohan Kumar, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and senior officers of the armed forces, Aero India 2017 will showcase aerospace, defence, civil aviation, airport infrastructure and defence engineering products at Air Force Station Yelahanka.
Training activities, understandably, for the month or so have been shifted to nearby bases at Air Force Station Bidar and Air Force Station Sulur in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, respectively. Flying activities at Air Force Station Yelahanka are among the highest of all the IAF bases in the country. A large number of aircraft have been flown to Bidar and Sulur to make room for Aero India participants.
To host the biggest air show in Asia, planning and preparations start six months prior. Looking into various verticals are 20 different committees. To ensure smooth operations, Bangalore International Airport, third busiest airport in southern region, will keep the runway partially closed from February 8 to 18. The full dress rehearsal takes place on February 12.
According to official records, the current show is expected to see over 750 companies, delegations from 109 countries, 1,50,000 business visitors and 3,00,000 general visitors participating. The 10th edition witnessed exhibitors from 33 countries, 46 overseas delegations, a total of 644 companies; of which 326 were international and 318 domestic participating over a gross exhibition area of 108,250 sqm, around 44 per cent more than the 9th edition.
In 2015, the United States was the leading participant with 64 companies, with France coming second with 58 companies, followed by UK (48), Russia (41), Israel (25), Germany (17) to name a few. Guarding the premises will be 250 cameras covering the entire peripheral walls in addition to 250 cameras monitoring every corner inside the base; CISF, Army Commandoes and IAF’s own Special Force Garud Commandoes. “Security will be top priority at AFS Yelahanka this time. Apart from the three-tier security arrangements, we will have some additional plans in place”, said an official.
Cynosure of all eyes will be Tejas from No. 45 Squadron, aka Flying Daggers. Since its induction into IAF last year, it will be the first time that an inservice Tejas from an IAF’s operational squadron will be participating at Aero India. Other indigenous products expected to make an impact will be HTT-40 and LUH from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Rustom-2 from Defence Research and Development Organisation.
Another desi bird to keep all eyes glued to it will be the Hawk-i, the first indigenously upgraded Hawk Mk132, rolled out by HAL on the eve of Republic Day recently. “This is the 100th Hawk aircraft produced at HAL, having the ‘Make in India’ mark. HAL had conceived a programme for indigenous upgradation of the Hawk Mk132 for achieving self-reliance and has successfully accomplished it,” HAL, Chairman and Managing Director T Suvarna Raju said.
In an attempt to back a tender for the manufacture of a fighter under the ‘Make in India’ programme, a large number of foreign OEMs will showcase their complete air power solutions that may include US giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Swedish Saab, French Dassault Aviation and the Russian Mikoyan and Sukhoi Bureaus. Another new aircraft, Dassault’s new flagship, Falcon 8X will make its Indian debut at Aero India 2017.
Israel’s National Pavilion this time will display an exciting array of some of Israel’s most innovative defense companies. Through three decades India and Israel have forged a close cooperation in research, development and manufacturing of aerospace and defence systems deployed throughout the Indian military services – from outer space to ground level and from large platforms to miniature unmanned systems. The Pavilion, one of the largest in Aero-India, is hosted by SIBAT, Israel’s Defense Cooperation Authority, a branch of the Israeli Ministry of Defence.
The show will act as a business bridging gap between global firms and the local Medium and Small Scale Enterprises with several MoUs and working partnerships set to be signed during Aero India 2017; giving Global aerospace firms opportunities to increase their footprint in India, while the local manufacturers could get a shot in engaging themselves in the global supply chain.
So let’s buckle up and strengthen our neck muscles to see the metal birds go up, up and up in the sky!