Aero India 2023 proved to be a hotspot for national and international defence and aerospace industry, significant discussions and a display of the global aerospace prowess
Aero India 2023, the largest event of its kind in India, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 13. According to the statistics shared by the Ministry of Defence, the event showcased India’s growth in aerospace and defence capabilities, attracting 98 countries, 32 Defence Ministers, 29 Air Chiefs, and 73 CEOs of various Indian and international defence manufacturers, as well as MSMEs and startups. Exhibitors included Airbus, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Leonardo, Rolls-Royce, BrahMos Aerospace, and more. The focus of the event was on displaying indigenous equipment/technologies and forging partnerships with foreign companies, in line with the ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ vision. The show promoted the export of indigenous air platforms and showcased breathtaking air shows.
“When the country moves forward with new thinking, new approach, then its systems also start changing according to the new thinking”, said the Prime Minister while inaugurating Aero India 2023. He highlighted the event to be a reflection of the changing approach of New India. He stated that Aero India is no longer ‘just a show’ and a window to ‘sell to India’, rather today, Aero India is India’s strength that showcases the scope of the defence industry and the self-confidence of India.
Underlining the ambitions of India’s self reliant defence hub, he highlighted that the nation which used to be the largest defence importer for decades has now started exporting defence equipment to 75 countries in the world. Referring to the transformation of the defence sector in the last 8-9 years, the Prime Minister said that the aim is to take defence exports from 1.5 billion to 5 billion by 2024-25. “From here India will take rapid strides to be included among the largest defence manufacturing countries and our private sector and investors will play a big role in that”, the Prime Minister said.
The event saw the debut of the US Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, alongside the presence of B-1B Lancers, the F-16 and F/A-18
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asserted that India has become a promising manufacturing destination due to its business-friendly environment and cost-competitiveness. “India has become the fifth largest economy in the world due to the vision and is well on course to become the third largest economy in the next 4-5 years. India’s G-20 presidency this year is also a reflection of India’s growing stature on the international platforms,” he said.
The Prime Minister also inaugurated the India Pavilion and went through the displays showcasing India’s indigenous defence prowess and interacted with the CEOs present at the pavilion. An Ambassadors’ Roundtable conference, a CEO’s Round Table, Manthan Start-up event and featured displays of Artificial Intelligence, Radars, Drones, cyber-tech and other emerging areas were also a part of the event.
DEALS & LAUNCHES
The Bandhan event, held on February 15, saw the commencement of 266 partnerships, including 201 MoUs, 53 major announcements, nine product launches and three Transfer of Technology, worth around 80,000 crore. Some of the products launched during the event included Vertically Launch Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile (BDL), SAL Seeker ATGM for BMP II (BDL), and Jishnu (BDL), the indigenouslybuilt ‘Counter Drone Radar’ based on technology from DRDO (Astra Microwave Products Limited), 9-millimetre subsonic ammunition (Munitions India Limited), and Software-defined NAVIC/GPS receiver module based on indigenously-developed processors.
HAL signed a contract with the Argentinian Air Force (AAF) for spares and engine repair of legacy two-tonne class helicopters. Safran Helicopter Engines and HAL signed a workshare agreement for the joint development of the engine intended for the future 13-tonne Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) and its naval version Deck Based Multi-Role Helicopter (DBMRH). Airbus and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to expand the country’s access to aerospace education and research.
The Defence Minister also launched the Ninth edition of Defence India Startup Challenges (DISC 9) on “Cybersecurity” with 28 problem statements, and the iDEX Investor Hub (iIH). More than 200 crores have already been pledged under iIH by leading Indian investors.
Speaking at the Start-Up Manthan, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh equated Start-ups with new energy, new commitment and new enthusiasm. Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) also signed MoUs with leading investors at Manthan as well as with ISRO, IN-SPACe, and ISpA to further strengthen the Defence Space. Another MoU was signed with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to potentially launch start-up challenges in the future. The fourth edition of Innovate4Defence internship (i4D) was also launched, inviting applications from students all over India. Defence Minister also released the Indian Army’s compendium of 110 Problem Statements for indigenous defence research, design, development and manufacturing ecosystem. The Problem Statements highlight Indian Army’s technological challenges and requirements in various domains ranging from Armament, Surveillance & Fire Control Systems to niche domains such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Metaverse, Robotics, Quantum Technology, Cyber, Smartisation of Ammunition etc. iDEX-DIO also signed its 200th contract with a winner of the Indian Navy Prime challenge launched under the SPRINT initiative.
A fly past and a flying display were a part of the inaugural. From Sarang to Surya Kirans, LCH Prachand to LUH, Sukhoi to Rafale and MiG-29, ALH Rudra to LCA Tejas caught the attention and set the spirits high through various maneuvers and formations including the Tiranga formation by the Surya Kirans, Varuna, Arjun, Netra, Trishul and Gurukul formations.
This year’s elaborate flying display and outdoor display of aircraft at Aero India 2023 were the highlights of the event, drawing in crowds from all over the world. The five-day event showcased a wide range of aircraft, from fighter jets to helicopters, transport aircraft, and drones. The display was a visual treat for the spectators, with the aircraft performing various maneuvers, including loops, rolls, and barrel rolls. The fighter jets, in particular, were a sight to behold, with their afterburners blazing and creating an impressive sonic boom. The spectators were treated to the sight of the Indian Air Force’s Tejas, Rafale, and Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets, as well as the F-35 Lightning II and F-16 Fighting Falcon from the United States, and Eurofighter Typhoon from the United Kingdom.
Another highlight on display were the drones that included the Rustom-2, a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone, and the Rustom-H, which is a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drone. The drones showcased their surveillance capabilities, with live feeds being displayed on large screens during the flying display for the spectators to see.
Embraer showcased its C-390 Millennium military multimission tactical air transport aircraft, which made its Asia debut with the static display during Aero India 2023
The outdoor display of aircraft was equally impressive, with aircraft from various manufacturers on display including aircraft from Indian manufacturers like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and BrahMos Aerospace, as well as international manufacturers like Airbus, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, Lockheed Martin, and Rolls-Royce. Apart from the latest aircraft like the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and others, the latest in aviation technology, with displays of engines like the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB, avionics, and other components were also showcased. The outdoor display also included ground-based equipment like radars, missiles, and other defence systems. The Akash missile system, which is an indigenous surface-to-air missile system, and the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, which is a joint venture between India and Russia were on display.
The event also saw the display of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) developed by Israel, showcasing the latest in UAS technology, including autonomous flight capabilities and advanced sensors.
GLORIOUS GLOBAL DISPLAYS
The United States Air Force’s newest fifth-generation fighters – the stealthy, supersonic, multirole F-35A Lightning II and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter – made their debut at Aero India 2023. Along with the F-35A, the presence of B-1B Lancers, the F-16 and F/A-18 attracted significant attention. The B-1B Lancers arrived in style on the second day of the show, turning heads. The B-1B Lancer carries the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the US Air Force and is considered the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force. The B-1B had landed in India for the first time and conducted a fly-by on the inaugural day of Aero India 2021, escorted by an Indian Air Force Tejas fighter. The return of the long-range, supersonic, heavy bomber to India to participate in Aero India 2023 underscores the importance the United States places on the growing strategic partnership with India, read the US Embassy’s statement.
Embraer showcased its C-390 Millennium military multimission tactical air transport aircraft, which made its Asia debut with the static display during Aero India 2023. Complementing the C-390 Millennium’s presence at the show Embraer also offered a closer look at Embraer Defense & Security’s comprehensive portfolio and innovative solutions, which included the A-29 Super Tucano, the P600 AEW&C, and the radars & border surveillance solutions.
The India pavilion showcased India’s indigenous aerospace and defence technologies, as well as the ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ vision
“We are proud to bring Embraer’s iconic C-390 Millennium to India for our guests to experience the true capabilities of this 21st-century military multi-mission aircraft. India is a key market for Embraer, and we are keen to establish partnerships in the country that can further boost India’s defence industries and capabilities. We look forward to engaging with India’s defence & aerospace ecosystem at this event,” said Bosco da Costa Junior, President & CEO, Embraer Defense & Security. The C-390 Millennium boasts of the ability to carry out a wide range of missions using the same platform, including Air-to-Air (in-flight) Refueling (AAR) for fixed & rotary wing aircraft, airborne operations, troop & cargo transportation, humanitarian missions, medical evacuation, firefighting, and search & rescue, with simple and rapid reconfiguration between the different configurations using conversion kits and state-of-the-art built-in reconfigurable cargo floor systems. The aircraft was designed to operate on semi-prepared or damaged runways as well as in hostile environments, ranging from hot & humid to cold, dry conditions.
The India pavilion at Aero India 2023 was one of the major attractions of the event. The pavilion showcased India’s indigenous aerospace and defence technologies, as well as the ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ vision. The Pavilion had a new DefSpace section as well this year on how the space industry can align with the defence industry in India and bring about a further boost to India’s strengthening self-reliance defence capabilities. According to the official release, a total of about 115 companies displayed 227 products. The pavilion focused on the growth of India in developing an ecosystem for Fixed Wing platform which included the demonstration of various structural modules, simulators, systems (LRUs) etc of LCA-Tejas aircraft being produced by Private Partners. There was also a section for New Technologies and a UAV which gave an insight about the growth of India in each sector. The pavilion was divided into various sections, each showcasing different aspects of India’s capabilities in the aerospace and defence sector.
One of the leading technologies on display at Aero India 2023 was the TAPAS-BH, a medium altitude long endurance class tactical aerial platform developed by the. The platform is capable of conducting surveillance, intelligence gathering, and reconnaissance missions, and has a range of up to 4,000 km.
The show successfully concluded on February 17, 2023. Overall, Aero India 2023 showcased a range of cutting-edge technologies in the fields of aviation and aerospace, highlighting India’s progress towards achieving its ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) vision. Overall, the India pavilion at Aero India 2023 was a showcase of India’s growing capabilities in the aerospace and defence sector and provided an opportunity for Indian manufacturers to showcase their capabilities and forge partnerships with international manufacturers.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hosted the Defence & Deputy Defence Ministers of 27 countries at the Defence Ministers’ Conclave held on February 14, 2023 under the broad theme of ‘Shared Prosperity through Enhanced Engagements in Defence’ (SPEED). It sought to address aspects related to deepening cooperation for capacity building (through investments, R&D, joint ventures, co-development, co-production and provisioning of defence equipment), training, space, AI and maritime security to grow together.
Singh emphasised that the focus should be on providing assistance, in terms of building of institutions and capacities, so that bottom-up solutions can come up organically, in consonance with the ethos of the nations being assisted. He informed the Defence Ministers that India is moving ahead working with this principle by offering enhanced defence partnership to its friendly countries. “We offer a partnership that is accommodative of the national priorities and capacities. We want to build with you, we want to launch with you, we want to create with you and we want to develop with you. We wish to create symbiotic relationships, where we can learn from each other, grow together and create a win-win situation for all,” he said.
Over 160 delegates from several countries, including Defence & Deputy Defence Ministers from 27 countries, 15 Defence and Service Chiefs and 12 Permanent Secretaries from 80 countries participated in the conclave attesting to India’s tremendous growth and engagement in the defence and security sectors, according to the Ministry.