It’s jet, set and go for Aero India – 2019, the 12th edition of India’s premier aerospace and defence trade show. Bengaluru, the aerospace capital of India, stands decorated and spruced up for the international event, which will have in attendance the who’s who of the aviation and defence sector. The Yelhanka Air Base situated in Bengaluru, the traditional base for Aero India since inception, wears a bridal look. It will be at this Air Base that aerospace and defence companies from across the globe will pitch their products and solutions to Indian and regional armed forces over the course of five days.

Aero India, a biennial trade show, since it’s inception in 1999 has gained a vanted status amongst defence contractors, waiving for multi-billion dollar defence tenders from Indian armed forces. Having been conceived by India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) for sustaining dialogue amongst stakeholders of the defence industry,  Aero India has traditionally been the preferred hunting ground for Indian armed forces.

Business at the 12th edition of the show will kick -off on February 20, following the inauguration of the trade show by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With India resorting to large scale modernisation of its armed forces, trade shows such as DefExpo and Aero India have gained greater importance in the business plans of companies vying for orders in the hotly contested Indian defence market.

With over 370 companies having registered to the event, business at the trade show is expected to be brisk. Over 204 Indian companies and 165 international defence solution providers have registered for the high-profile event. A record space footing of over 27,500 Sqm has been booked by participants for the 12th edition of the Air Show.

Being labelled a runway to billion opportunities, by the organisers, Aero India – 2019 is aimed at communicating India’s value proposition in addressing the immense opportunities in the Aerospace and Aviation sectors in India today. The tagline underlines India’s status as an emerging hub for the global aerospace industry and draws attention to the investment opportunities under Make in India. From the acquisition of 110 multi-role fighter jets and 111 naval utility helicopters to the indigenous development of the light combat helicopter, India’s aerospace sector has crossed an inflection point. The MoD using the Logo, featuring the LCA Tejas, and the tagline aim at creating a unified brand that markets Aero India as the premier Aerospace and Aviation exhibition in the region.

MMRCA 2.0 to steal the limelight

The new tender of the Indian Air Force (IAF) floated for procuring 110 MMRCA (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft) platforms, termed a redux of the erstwhile MMRCA tender, is bound to steal the limelight of the event. While all the six participants of the tender have confirmed their participation at Aero India – 2019, only three of the six contesting platforms will fly at the event.

Dassault’s Rafale, which is at centre stage of a political storm in India, is bound to be a hot favorite amongst the crowd. Flying alongside the Rafale will be the Boeing F-18 and Lockheed Martin’s F-16, both of which have received tremendous backing from the US Government as their manufacturers try to export them to India.

Boeing manufactured F-18 Advanced Super Hornet.

Global manufacturers, besides the MMRCA tender, will also showcase their offers for the NUH (Naval Utility Helicopter) and NMRH (Naval Multi Role Helicopter) tenders which have been floated by the Indian Navy. The NUH tender is progressing well with the MoD recently notifying platform specific procurement guidelines under the SP Model. The NMRH tender, through which Navy plans to acquire 123 helicopters, is pegged to be the biggest tender for such platform.

Aero India – 2019, a first of many.

The Government moving away from traditional practises has diversified the focus and business area of Aero India this time around. While business in every edition business revolved only around big names of the defence and aerospace sector, the Government has this time around made efforts to provide a strong pitching platform for the startups and MSMEs.

For encouraging startups, on the second day of the event –  February 21 – the Government has decided to hold a ‘Startup Marathon’.  Participation at an event of the repute of Aero India will be a major boost to the participating startup companies. This will provide the companies with the much required exposure to the global industry and shall be helpful in introducing them to the users. The onus has always been upon the Government to nurture these startups.

In run up to the Marathon, the MoD, under the ‘Defence India Startup Challenge’, had launched the second set of challenges for companies who have been vying to make a foray into the defence and aerospace sector. The startup challenge is an initiative by the Defence Innovation Organization in partnership with Atal Innovation Mission, which aims at supporting Startups, MSMEs and Innovators to create prototypes and to commercialize products and solutions in the area of National Defence and Security.

Startups, as part of the challenge, have been asked to propose solutions for several problems plaguing the armed forces. From seeking solutions to countering GPS anti-jamming devices and illegal drone usage, to seeking revolutionary technologies such as data analytics for air trajectory and Radar – IQ signal generator, the MoD aims to exploit the expertise of the companies in these niche technological areas. Winners of the marathon will receive a grant up to INR 1.5 Crs for development of prototype by the Government, apart from receiving mentoring support by industry experts.

Indigenously developed Rustom Drone. Courtesy – Tarmak007.

The second day will also witness the much anticipated finale of the Drone Olympics, through which the MoD plans to enable UAV manufacturers to showcase their manufacturing capabilities to the global aerospace and defence fraternity. At the olympics, manufacturers will be showcasing their capabilities in manufacturing UAVs with robust technologies to undertake Surveillance, VTOL (Vertical Take Off Landing), Weight drop and formation flights. Winners of the olympics will receive cash prizes up to INR 5 Lakh.

Day – 4 of Aero India – 2019 will be dedicated to celebrate ‘Women in Aerospace’. Sunitha Williams, a renowned astronaut, who has made over 50 hours of spacewalks when deputed to ISS (International Space Station), will inaugurate the events on February 23.

Showcasing India as a Defence Manufacturing Hub’

The MoD in an effort to drive home its message of making India a key defence technology exporter will showcase several indigenously designed and developed defence platforms for several of the visiting International delegations. At the centrestage of these efforts will the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and the Light Combat Helicopter. Dhruv, Rudra – the armed version of Dhruv, Hawk-i, Dorniers will take the lead at the Aerobatics.

Aero India spreads wings as Civil Aviation Expo clubbed.

After years of contemplation, the Ministry of Defence working in lieu with the Ministry of Civil Aviation has decided to fold the ‘Wings India’, a dedicated show for Civil Aviation, with Aero India for the maiden time. This initiative by both the ministries has significantly increased participation of companies in Aero India. The footfall to the event is also expected to recieve a significant boost as global forms have been vying to get a share of the lucrative civil aviation market in India.

The Indian Civil Aviation market is currently the third fastest growing market and by the next decade, the market is expected to emerge as the fastest and also expected cement it’s position as the largest single market.

Indian carriers are expected to operate more than 800 short and long-haul aircraft by 2020. Carriers such as Indigo and Spice Jet have placed record orders upon aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing.

Testimony to the interest of manufacturers and various other suppliers in showcasing their products at Aero India, is the increased number of platforms put up for aerial and static display at the event. Airbus, a leader in supplying single-aisle short and medium-haul aircraft, has fielded it’s Airbus 330 Neo. Dassault, a leader in supplying business aircraft, is fielding it’s Falcon business jets at the event.