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The French Connection

From an Indian perspective, the iconic Paris International Air Show is significant as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ mantra is going to resonate at Le Bourget

Issue: 06-2015By R. ChandrakanthPhoto(s): By Dassault Aviation, US Air Force, Airbus Defence & Space, Pilatus, General Atomics
Dassault’s Rafale will be roaring in the skies of Paris at the show, also cheering the 36 fly-away condition order from India announced during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France
CH-47 Chinook from Boeing
Airbus A400M military transporter
Pilatus is showcasing the PC-21 which is used around the world to train military pilots
Predator C Avenger - General Atomics

Coming close on the heels of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s visit to France and the surprise announcement that India would acquire 36 Rafale aircraft from defence major Dassault Aviation through the government-to-government route, the Paris Air Show (June 15 to 20, 2015), from an Indian perspective, comes with a lot of expectation. Prime Minister Modi has given a new dimension to the aerospace and defence industry, aggressively pitching in the global market his ‘Make in India’ plan. That is going to weigh heavily on the minds of original equipment manufacturers who would like to engage in business/industrial relationship with India.

For Dassault Aviation which was the selected vendor for India’s medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) programme, it is a partial victory as it still awaits the final signing for the original deal of 126 Rafale aircraft. Despite the protracted process, Dassault should be happy as it has won some handsome orders for its aircraft in the Asian region with 36 aircraft for India, 24 for Egypt and 24 for Qatar with option to buy 12 more. Not just Dassault, but other French companies have already commenced engagement with Indian companies, some even before Prime Minister Modi’s initiative.One can expect lot more frenetic activity in France and India.

That means a re-energised defence industry in France with several of its companies looking globally to keep the economy running. The aerospace industry continues to grow in France, in Europe and worldwide. In 2014, the French “GIFAS” members hired 10.000 people. They represent 180.000 jobs, covering every level of experience and training.

Iconic Show

As regards the 51st Paris Air Show per se, it is one of the biggest events worldwide, like, the Olympic Games or the Festival de Cannes. Founded in 1909, Paris Air and Space Show is a true force for the development of this industry in France and catalyst to many international cooperation operations. Organised by the SIAE, 100 per cent owned by the GIFAS it has obtained in 2013, the ISO standard 20121, (after Olympic Games and Eurovision contest). The Show is working hard to reduce the environmental impact, and encourages exhibitors to do so as well. The aviation community from almost all countries descend on Le Bourget where the show takes place.

US Back in Numbers

The biggest of all contingents is United States to be represented by more than 350 companies, most of them gathered in the 4,000 sq m American pavilion. For the US companies it is good news as in the last edition, owing to restrictions placed by their government, their participation was limited.

The US Department of Defense has lined up a number of aircraft on display, but only static. Conspicuous by its absence will be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but will be made up by F-15 E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, the WC-130J Hurricane Hunter, the P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the UH-72 Lakota and the CH-47 Chinook.

According to Emeric d’Arcimoles, Paris Air show’s Chairman and CEO, “Paris Air and Space Show is a major player in the aerospace industry, and shows its richness and diversity. More than just a showcase, the Show is an extraordinary exchange tool in which every actor of this industry finds the contacts and ideas that will help them to grow.”

Airbus Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Marwan Lahoud, who is also the President of the GIFAS aerospace industry association said France expects a record number of visitors and more than 2,200 exhibitors at the air show. The show has both military and civil components and the latter always hogs the limelight with announcements of mega deals. Both the Paris Air Show and the Farnborough Air Show near London continue to be hosts for the perennial battle between the two aircraft manufacturing giants Airbus and Boeing.

Airbus: Home Turf Advantage

It is Airbus’s home turf and they come out in droves (aircraft as well as executives) to make a point, particularly to their American competitor Boeing, that they rule the skies. This year Airbus will be showcasing the A350; A380; E-FAN; H135; H225M; H145M; H160; CASA 295; A400M and Typhoon. And the company will be as aggressive as ever in its sales and marketing, expecting to bag substantial orders. In fact, it has become a routine for Airbus to take centre-stage with mega deal announcements. In 2013, Airbus bagged 466 orders valued at $68.7 billion and Boeing was on its tail with 442 orders valued at $66 billion.

Airbus Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Marwan Lahoud, at a pre-event press conference told reporters that Airbus’s delivery plans for the A400M military transporter may get altered following an accident in May. The A400M will be on display.

Expect Boeing Surprise

The ding-dong battle between Airbus and Boeing at the show invariably gets interesting with jibes, competition on deals etc. Boeing trails for the simple reason that Airbus goes hammer and tongs at the show. Boeing in May announced new orders for two 737s, bringing the 2015 total to 159 gross orders and 134 net orders till May end. Boeing’s deliveries till April end 2015 were 250 with 737 accounting for 164. It is believed that the orders at Paris Air Show may not be as huge as in 2013, though demand exists. But you never know what these two giants will pull out of their hats.

Embraer’s ‘Right Size’

The Brazilian airframe manufacturer is coming to Le Bourget with lot more focus on its offerings in the regional realm. It is going to reiterate the unique benefits of the E-Jet family which is gaining substantial market across continents. The Embraer team is going to be explaining how the E-Jet family (E2 is going to come soon) is a good business bet, giving better return on capital employed than bigger aircraft from the top two manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. The company is going to be highlighting its ‘new metrics for success’ even while it is taking its mock-up cabin of E2 across the world. Right sizing of aircraft is its pitch and it is working for the company as more and more new destinations within a country open up. In the executive jet segment, it has aircraft in all the classes and it drives home the point that it caters to one and all. It’s Executive Vice President (commercial aviation) Paulo Cesar Silva told recently, how Embraer was strategising its marketing to be in some of the economies even before they really opened up economically.

Bombardier’s CS300 CSeries jetliner which is hit by development snags, however, will make its debut flying appearance. So also Ukraine’s Antonov An-178 military transporter, which staged a maiden flight earlier this month will be there.

Pilatus Trainer in Focus

Since the Paris Air Show is known for several technological innovations, Pilatus is showcasing the PC-21 which is used round the world to train military pilots of the future and the PC-12NG termed as the world’s greatest single. Also Vying for pride of place at the Paris Air Show in the single engine aircraft category is the PC-12 NG. The versatile PC-12 NG performs many roles worldwide, including executive transport, commuter, medevac, police and border surveillance, cargo transport, military liaison and regional airliner.

Israeli Defence

The Israelis are also in good numbers and the leading company Israel Aerospace Industries will be displaying missiles including Barak 8 air and missile defence system which it is coproducing with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India. Besides that, it will showcase Arrow-2 and Arrow -3, anti-ballistic missiles, which IAI is making with Boeing, as well as the Lora surface-to-surface missile.

Drones All Over

The unmanned aerial vehicle segment which is gaining substantial ground will be hovering over the show, so to say. General Atomics is marketing its extended-range Maritime Predator, the Avenger, the Predator XP and possibly other UAVs. It will be promoting the Advanced Cockpit GCS simulator.

Thales is presenting its active, electronically scanned array radar and also unmanned aerial systems (UAS). It is likely to present Watchkeeper. Thales will be talking up high-rate data links, satellite communications and identification friend or foe (IFF) solutions for UAS and for countering UAS. Ground Master systems will be on display, as will nose-to-tail connectivity for aircraft including IFF, real-time management servicing and time/fuel efficiency; but those are more commercial.

While most aerospace and defence majors will be present, companies such as BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman are skipping the event. The Northrop CEO Wes Bush had said three years ago that the company would focus on regional events rather than international meetings.