New York: US fighter jets, European commercial planes and Russian anti-missile systems will jostle for attention at India's biggest air show starting on Wednesday in Bangalore as titans Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Sukhoi and other manufacturers take their wares to India's booming market.
More than 700 companies will participate in the ninth edition of Aero India in Bangalore from 6-10February.
The US will be the largest participant bringing Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Bell Helicopter. Israel, a growing supplier, is sending the second-largest contingent after the US, followed by India's long-time weapons supplier Russia.
India is looking to spend over $50 billion over the next five years to modernise its army and largely Soviet-era equipment. India had long focused its military planning on Pakistan, and Pakistan-based militants, but is now concerned about feuding with China over the disputed Sino-Indian border, where China claims large tracts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Seventy percent of the Indian army's weapons are Russian, but India has been trying to diversify the sourcing of weapon systems. The US has steadily scored a string of big-ticket deals over the last five years.
"A remarkable growth in defence sales has translated to high-skill jobs being created both in India and the US, making it a 'win-win' for both countries," said Ron Somers, president of the US-India Business Council (USIBC).
The USIBC says defense sales between India and the US have grown from just over $200 million in 2001 to over $14 billion today.
US aerospace giant Boeing scored a $1.4 billion deal to supply India with 22 Apache AH-64D attack helicopters, beating off competition from the Russian Mi-28N Night Hunter. The deal will include advanced AN/APG-78 fire control radars for the Apaches as well as Hellfire anti-tank and 245 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
The first of the 10 US-made Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft ordered in 2011 will be delivered to the Indian Air Force in June this year. India is forking over $4.1 billion to buy the US Air Force's workhorse used in Iraq and Afghanistan, making it the largest defense contract to have been signed by the two governments.
Last year, India purchased an amphibious transport vessel, the USS Trenton (re-christened INS Jalashwa), for nearly $50 million with six-UH-3H helicopters to operate alongside, costing another $49 million. It also bought Lockheed Martin's Super Hercules C-130J transport aircraft and placed a $2.1 billion order for eight P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
Aero India's showstopper is likely to be a full-scale model of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) that India is developing with Russia. India's Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), Russia's Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi will jointly develop and produce the FGFA, which is based on Russia's Sukhoi T-50 fighter jet.
"In Bangalore, we will present the training and combat plane Yakovlev-130, the Ilyushin-74MK90 which is meant for refueling other planes in the air, the multipurpose amphibian plane Be-200 and one of our latest military planes, Ilyushin-76MD-90A. We are also going to show the helicopters Mil-35M and Kamov-31," Rosoboronexport's Vyacheslav Davidenko told Voice of Russia.
"We will also present anti-missile systems that we are offering to India - Antey-2500, Tor-M2E, Buk-M2E and Pantsyr-S-1," added Davidenko.
One of the key highlights of the show this year will be the participation of three aerobatics teams - Czech Republic's Flying Bulls, Russian Knights and the Indian Air Force's Sarang.