Like everything else in Dubai, the Dubai
Air Show 2007 has been a mega event, better than
before and better ever.
When the first edition of Dubai Air Show was
first inaugurated in 1989, it was not a modest
The event was promising, indicative of the growth
that military and civil aviation would take place
in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Government of Dubai was enthusiastic for the
success of this show, indeed as it always is for
anything that it does for the growth of this great
This writer has had the privilege to attend most
of them, beginning 1989, and it is no surprise
today that more than US$ 55 billion worth of orders
were announced this time, albeit for civilian
aircraft. Here are bound to be some other expressions
of interest in aircraft and systems for the military
and security organization in the region; they
would come be known only over time.
Emirates, the world’s fastest growing airline,
bought nearly $ 35 billion worth of 100 Airbus
wide-body jets while Qatar Airways, another airline
from the Gulf ordered more than $ 13.5 billion
worth of newer 57 Boeing jets.
least $ 5 billion worth or orders were given by
other airlines and operators, including the Dubai
Aerospace Company (DAC), Pakistan’s Air
Blue, Yemenia and Etihad. There was an announcement
about the world’s biggest MRO in the UAE,
and an exhibition in March 2009 aimed at training
“Massive growth from regional carriers,
which is predicted to need 8,000 additional pilots
by 2025, and with more than US$ 80 billion being
invested in GCC aerospace infrastructure, demand
for skilled aviation professionals is at an all
time high in the Middle East,” said Alison
Weller, Director Aerospace of Fairs & Exhibitions
(F&E), which has been holding the Dubai Air
Show from its inception.
The number of ‘Firsts’ that Dubai
scores is not surprising any more; from beautiful
roads and infrastructure, hotels, resorts, golf
clubs, international conference facilities, beaches,
duty-free shops, every thing literally takes off
towards glorious heights.
Organized by the London-based Fairs and Exhibitions
from its debut, the 10th edition of the Dubai
Air Show this year was no exception.
It has caught on with the Farnborough and Paris
In 1989, there were about 200 exhibitors in an
area of 7000 sq meters at the Dubai International
Airport. Leading companies brought 25 aircraft,
marveling the residents and visitors with five
days of daring aerobatic displays. In some cases,
visitors – media personnel at least –could
touch those magnificent fighter jets which one
saw in the air some time or in films and TV shows.
US showed its F 16, the French Mirage 2000, the
British Harriers jump jets, while the Russians
flaunted their SU 27 with its famous cobra man
oeuvre, that is virtually a patent now for their
SU 30 and the new Mig 35, the latter being an
upgraded and more powerful version of the Mig
29 that Russia is trying to export.
Dubai’91, the air show held two years later
was delayed by a few months due to the Gulf War
to liberate Kuwait from Iraq, but there were 400
participants from 40 nations and 67 aircraft.
The tally for the Dubai Air show 2007 was nearly
140 aircraft from across the globe, including
of new-to-market models ranging from strike fighters
to trainers, VIP Business jets from Boeing and
Hawker Beech craft, heavy cargo carriers, Airbus
A 380 and Airbus A 350 from EADS, Boeing 777,
Helicopters from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Euro
copter, Missile systems from Raytheon, radars
and electronic warfare systems from Northrop Grumman
as well as its naval spying aircraft, the Advanced
Hawkeye 2D, and so on.
Some 70 countries took part, several of them
at the ministerial and Chiefs of Staff level,
From India which has opened as the world’s
second biggest market for military and civil aircraft
simple reason that every aircraft in its military
inventory at least – with the exception
of SU 30 MKI – is 20- plus years old, thanks
to a full stop on acquisitions by the government
Minister of State for Defense Pallam Raju, Deputy
Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral An up Singh,
Deputy Chief of Air Staff B N Go hale and other
senior officers accompanied him.
Air shows are known for unveiling of new technologies.
It was at the Dubai’91 for instance that
the US displayed its F 117A Nighthawk stealth
fighter and Apache AH 64 helicopters that were
extensively used in Iraq.
had the opportunity of seeing the stealth fighter
gracefully land at the airport in the evening
a day before the air show opened. Not much was
known about these flying machines then and the
public was generally awed by the bat-shaped stealth
In fact, it was my son Nitin, on a holiday from
his school, the Mayo College in India, who excitedly
pointed out to the aircraft as we were driving
on a road alongside the airport. I was then posted
in Dubai as Chief of Bureau, Middle East, for
a news organization.
I learned then that there was a lot of use of
composites and kevlar in the Apache while the
development of the Stealth fighter was surprisingly
based on the findings of a Russian physicist,
Pyotr Ya Ufimtsev, who said that edges of an aircraft,
and not its size, would determine its radar signature.
The Americans are still making the best use of
this finding, and their F 22 Raptor, and partly
F 35 Lightning II, is based on this theory. Boeing
claims some element of stealth in its F-18 Super
Hornet as well.
Future warfare is actually all about bridging
the gap between target acquisition and engagement.
That’s what military aircraft companies
like Boeing, Lockheed and Raytheon talked about.
The advent of communications at high speed, supersonic
and now speed of light has changed warfare.
Aerobatic capabilities of aircraft are perhaps
that much irrelevant as technologies like Active
Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar of Northrop
Grumman and Raytheon have extended Beyond the
Visual Range (BVR) engagement potential of fighter
jets to new capabilities.
fact the UAE Air Force was among the first to
realize the value of this radar and paid for its
development while buying its 80 F-16 Block 60
India has floated a $ 10 billion tender for medium
Multi Role Combat Jets (MRCA) and according to
former Indian Chief of Air Staff S P Tyagi, capabilities
like AESA would determine the winner. The Indian
Air Force (IAF) expects the first batch of the
aircraft to be inducted by 2012.
Notably, the Euro fighter, one of the contenders
for the Indian Air Force (IAF), is now on the
acquisition list of Saudi Arabia, who’s
state-run Alsalam Aircraft Company, was also present
at the air show.
Alsalam, which collaborates with Boeing, is responsible
for tens of billion of dollars worth of offset
programmers since 1988 towards creating indigenous
civil and military aviation capabilities in the
kingdom, looking after acquisition to servicing
of US and European aircraft.
Aviation in the UAE has come of age, both in
military and civilian aircraft. The UAE has a
modern, impressive air force, while the Dubai
based Emirates has steadily displayed exemplary
Civil aircraft and helicopters have been maintained
at Abu Dhabi, and now, the Mubadala Development
Company has unveiled Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies
(ADAT), a subsidiary company positioned to become
a top-tier provider in maintenance, repair and
overhaul (MRO) by transforming the former Gulf
Aircraft Maintenance Company (GAMCO).
ADAT hopes to capture a sizeable chunk of the
MRO market not only in the Gulf and Middle East
but also in India.
All these developments point out that the Dubai
Air show, already the world’s third biggest
is set to fly higher.