Centre's Rafale deal may hit Bangalore airshow

Over 55 per cent of planes are civilian aircraft

With the government zeroing in on the vendor for procuring 126 fighter jets, the upcoming aero show in Bangalore is likely to lose some sheen, though the Defence Ministry claimed that the event will generate more business.

Only the Rafale fighter aircraft from Dasault Aviation and the F-16s from Lockheed Martin will fly at the ninth edition of Aero India, which will begin at the Yelahanka base in Bangalore on February 6.

Defence Minister A K Antony will inaugurate the event.Though many companies opted out after the selection of Rafale, aircraft like Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster and the Pilatus basic trainer aircraft, which India is procuring to upgrade its fleet, will fly at the biennial show. Twenty-seven countries will put up stalls and officials from 78 nations will attend the five-day event.

With some more big-ticket acquisitions in military aviation in the pipeline, officials hope that Indian companies will get ample business. “So far, we have confirmed offset of Rs 19,000 crore, out of which Rs 14,000 crore has gone to Indian companies, including the small and medium ones,” said R K Mathur, secretary, Department of Defence Production.

The airshow will witness a significant civilian presence as well, since over 55 per cent of the planes are civilian aircraft. Three aerobatic teams—Flying Bulls from Czech Republic, Russian Knights from the Russian Air Force and IAF’s Sarang—will showcase their skills at the event.

So far, 607 companies, including 352 foreign firms, have confirmed their participation. The figures are lower than the 2011 edition, where 675 companies, including 380 foreign firms, participated.

Only 52 aircraft, comprising fighter, transport and civilian planes, as well as helicopters, have confirmed flying display. The Indian Space Research Organisation and a large number of engineering colleges will also be present.

A three-tier security cordon comprising the Central Industrial Security Force, local police and other security agencies will guard the base, officials said.

Asked about the role of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) in the multi-billion dollar deal on procuring the 126 fighter jets, Mathur said HAL’s role as the main integrator of the platforms was spelt out in the original request for proposal.

“The role of HAL is already defined in the original tender for medium multi-role combat aircraft project. It says that the main body, aero-engines, air frame and the integration shall be done by them,” Mathur said.

Dassault Aviation, which emerged as the winner in the six-company race for India’s biggest defence deal, recently told the Defence Ministry to clarify HAL’s role in the project.

According to the tender, the first 18 of the 126 aircraft are to be supplied by Rafale from its facilities, while the rest will be licence produced and integrated by HAL at its facilities here. The deal is already behind schedule as Rafale and the Defence Ministry are still negotiating on the price.

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