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Aero India 96


A bevy of world class aircraft and systems manufacturers from across the globe participated in the Aero India 96 airshow held at Yelahanka Air Force station, Bangalore between December 3-7. More than 100 companies from 12 foreign countries, and 50 companies from India, which included almost all the renowned names in the aeronautics and aerospace industry, participated in the event. It provided an opportunity for the exhibitors to interface with Indian companies and R & D organisations to consider future strategies to sub-contract work packages, source components and explore possibilities of joint ventures in the aviation world. Aero India 96 also served to generate awareness about the technological capabilities of various aviation organisations.

This was India's second airshow after the largely successful Avia India 1993, which was organised by Applied Technologies(a private company). Aero India 96 was organised by the Ministry of Defence in association with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Indian Air Force(IAF), Bharath Electronics Limited(BEL), BEML, Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO), the Department of Defence Production and Supplies, the Departments of Civil Aviation & Space and the State Government. The airshow was split into exhibitions, flying displays and seminars. The display consisted of military and civil aircraft, weapon systems, instrument landing systems, airport equipment and communication equipment.

The IAF aerobatic team "Surya Kirans" flying the HAL Kiran II at the inauguration.

IAF Mi-8 formation flying the Indian tricolour

At the inauguration of the airshow Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda announced that India planned to manufacture 50 and 100 seater aircraft for military and civilian use. The two projects were worth Rs 400 crore each, the outlay for which would be provided in the next financial year. Most of the money was expected to be invested as part of HAL's equity in the project. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore would manufacture the 50 seater aircraft while HAL, Nasik would produce the 100 seater planes.

The IAF Mi-8 helicopter brought Prime Minister Deve Gowda to the airshow

Addressing reporters, the defence secretary, Mr T.S. Vijayaraghavan said the Aero India 96 was not just a show, but an exposition of global aviation technology. Though India is not a big player in the international aerospace market currently, a winning combination of domestic space and aerospace technology will be able to penetrate the world market in the near future, he said.

Going by the participation list, Russia, United States and Europeran companies were not taking the first truly Indian international airshow lightly. With military exports dipping sharply in the west, the two military giants see India as a booming market due to its simmering cold war with Pakistan and China. Their optimism is buoyed by the fact that Indian military hardware, particularly in the air force, is going in for large-scale modernisation and midlife upgradation in the next five years.

IAF Mig-27's

The airshow was dominated by defence aircraft and technologies. The civil section was confined to a few small, medium-sized jest like Hansa of the National aerospace Laboratories, Taneja Aviation and Aerospace Ltd(TAAL) and the massive Russia transport aircraft. The last minute pull out of the Mig-AT(Advance Trainer) gave rise to speculation about the huge India Air Force order.

Hansa aircraft

Aviation enthusiasts were disappointed that the two United States Air Force(USAF) F-15s were only on static display. The F-15s were part of the Pacific Air Force's 3rd Wing based in Alaska, and the C-130(also on static display) was part of the Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing based in North Carolina. Official U.S. participation in the air show demonstrated its commitment to the entire Pacific region, contributed to its regional cooperative engagement strategy, and enhanced military-to-military contacts.

The show stealer was undoubtedly Russia's Sukhoi Su-30MK multi-purpose combat aircraft, the Indian Air Force's latest acquisition. The Su-30MK had dazzled spectators and competitors alike at the Farnborough international airshow earlier in the year, where it was displayed for the first time to the world. Russia will transfer the technology to manufacture the fighter and HAL will undertake production at the MIG complex at Nasik. The first eight aircraft to be delivered to the IAF will be the original Su-30MKs while the later two batches will be ultimately upgraded to the Su-35 and Su-37 standards.

Su-30MK thrills the spectators

HAL used the occasion to showcase its latest offering, the Advanced Light Helicopter(ALH), which was at an advanced stage of prototype flying and certification. The much talked about ALH showcased the public sector outfit's capabilities in the aeronautics field in the global market. HAL was expected to announce major orders for the ALH during the airshow. HAL also showed-off its Kiran and HPT-32 aircraft.

The ALH multi-role and multi-mission helicopter

Kiran Mk-11 trainer

HPT-32 Deepak

Another first by India was the display of the indigenously developed Airborne Surveillance Platform (ASP). Nicknamed the "Flying Chapatti" by some, the ASP is said to have the capability to provide a 15-minute early warning and to cover a distance of 300 km. It flew on an Avro HS-748 aircraft.

The Airborne Surveillance Platform

The Russian Ka-52 two-seat combat helicopter made its international debut. The gunship called "Alligator" has no analogues in the world. The helicopter was created on the basis of the world-renowned Ka-50 rotary wing helicopter called the "Black Shark". A modern complex of radio-electronic equipment installed on board the Alligator makes it possible to use this multi-purpose helicopter over a combat field during twenty-four hours in any weather.

Kamov-50 'Black Shark'

The Ka-52 armaments enable it to fight tanks, make assault strikes and destroy, for the first time in world practice, enemy aircraft in air combat. No wonder, the Alligator caused a great interest of the representatives of Western aircraft-making companies and the command of India's Air Force. They all were delighted by the combat properties of the Alligator justly saying that it has no equals in the world. Meanwhile, India intends to start replacing its helicopter pool. However, the Alligator is not Russia's latest development. The Kamov helicopter and technical centre is working on two more new types of rotary-wing vehicles.

CII, in collaboration with Airports Authority of India, organised an Asian Airports Meet, an international conference and posters exhibition. Mr Ranjan Chatterjee, chairman of the Airports Authority of India said that Indian airports were likely to switch over from primary to secondary surveillance radars. Emphasising that improved navigational facilities can help avoid disasters, Chatterjee said: "This will help us manage 35-40 aircraft at a time, compared to 15-20 aircraft at present."

Prime Minister Deve Gowda also announced that a speedy decision would be taken on Karnataka's demand for a new international airport. The airport, which would be a Tata-Raytheon joint venture was pending with the Central government.

It was a nerve-wracking time for Air Traffic Control(ATC) at Yelahanka. Particular attention was paid to the ATC facilities, the nerve centre for the coordination of all flying during the airshow. The ATC at Yelahanka is controlled by the India Air Force, unlike Bangalore airport where the Airport Authority of India(AAI) rules over the airspace. Mid-air collisions are a major risk at airshow, mainly because of the exuberance of pilots to go beyond their best and put up a good disply. The mid-air collision between two aircraft at the Ramstien airshow is a recent example. The whole concept of aerobatics at airshows was reviewed in a fallout of the incident.

IAF Jaguar

All the ground constructions at the Yelahanka air base had been dovetailed to meet the needs of the show. Two new hangars of 4.300 sq-m were constructed at a cost of Rs 75 lakh, which were used by foreign exhibitors for putting up stalls. The old hangar, Know as the AN-32 hangar housed the Indian exhibitors including HAL, NAL, DRDO and ISRO. The aircrafts from outside were exhibited at the enhanced dispersal area of 113,00 sq-m, which was augmented at a cost of about Rs 2.75 crore. It will later be used by India Air Force. The Yelahanka air base is the only India Air Force base to have international standard apron lights procured from Malaysia at a cost of Rs 38 lakh. The seven dispersal 20-metre -high mast lights were used for the first time in India to illuminate the dispersal area and the hard standing ground.

An international seminar on ''Futurisitc aircraft technologies" was organised by DRDO in association with the Aeronautical Society of India at the Indian Institute of Science. Six foreign participants and 56 delegates participated, with some 31 speakers addressing the seminar.

Inaugurating the seminar, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, scientific adviser to the Defence Minister said the Medium Combat Aircraft(MCA), an advanced version of the Light Combat Aircraft(LCA) project had already been initiated by the DRDO and was in the project definition phase. He said the aircraft, a major step towards India`s ultimate goal of hyperplane, would be mated with an improved version of Kaveri engine, being developed by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment(GTRE), a DRDO outfit, for LCA.

On the progress of Kaveri engine, developed for replacement of General Electric engines in the LCA, Dr Kalam said two major breakthroughs had been achieved recently with two engines being on the test bed.

About the medium range transport aircraft for military as well as civilian use, for which Prime Minister Deve Gowda has announced financial support in his inaugural address of Aero India 96 in the morning, Dr Kalam said there was good potential for a 100 plus seater aircraft as the passenger load would more than double in the next two decades in India.

Dr Kalam said 80 per cent of the design tool, material and systems for a 100 seater civil aircraft as well as for a military transport aircraft would be the same and hence such a project could be taken as a single project. The experience and skill acquired from the ALH, LCA, missile and space programmes could be pooled to produce such an aircraft.

Referring to the ALH project, Dr Kalam said while the army and navy variants of the copter had already been out, the air force, civil and rescue versions of this five-tonne class helicopter were being pursued.

About LCA, he said the fighter had been incorporated with stealth technologies such as low radar cross section. The fighter with flat rated engine, digital control systems and multimode radar made the aircraft comparable with Swedish Jas 39, French Rafale and Eurofighter. The LCA designed to replace all the Mig series fighters had generated in a by-product of softwares. The software developed for the fighter is being exported to Europe and America, he added.

He said the ultimate in Indian aerospace industry was the reusable hyperplane capable of 100 landing's and take-off's, and he hoped India would reach out to this goal with the new generation coming up the ladder of defence research.

One fact that emerged clearly at Aero India 96 was that the country had a long way to go before it could make a dent in the global aerospace market. Said Gowda: "We have only a 0.1 per cent share of a market valued at $300 billion per annum. Our scientists and technicians need to do more in participation with the international community."

Eddy's photo collection on Aero India 96