Aero India 2023 showcases indigenous defence industry to the world
Yelahanka, Bengaluru: The stage was set for the 14th edition of Aero India to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister’s convoy drove in. But unlike other dignitaries, including defence minister Rajnath Singh, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, Karnataka chief minister Basvaraj Bommai, Karnataka governor Thawar Chand Gehlot and minister of state for defence Ajay Bhatt, who were seated in the front row of the grand stand to watch the flypast, the Prime Minister walked toward the chair placed close to the runway–his back to the audience, his ministerial colleagues, as well as the grand stage. There he sat in splendid isolation, watching the flypast.
Post the fly-past, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated Aero India 2023 by unveiling a commemorative stamp. “The fact that 100 countries are participating in the show shows the amount of trust that the world has started putting on India,” he said in his address, adding that the participation of different countries and CEOs’ would ensure that Aero India’s global potential rises. The event would also act as a medium to take India’s relations with friendly foreign countries further.
“Aero India today reflects new India’s new approaches,” the Prime Minister said. “There was a time when this event was limited to being a show or a mere window to India. But in the past few years, the country has changed this perception too. Today, Aero India is not merely a show, it is India’s strength. Today, it focuses on the Indian defence industry’s scope and self-confidence. This is because today, for foreign defence companies, India is not limited to being a market. Today, India is looked at as a potential defence partner. This partnership extends to even those countries that are far ahead in the defence sector. For any country looking for a trustworthy partner to fulfil its defence and security needs, India is proving to be that partner. Our technology is cost-effective and credible for these countries.”
Speaking about the Tejas fighter, he said a roaring Tejas in the sky was testimony to the success of India’s Make in India programme. He said exports were picking up pace. “The country that was the largest importer of arms is today exporting equipment to 75 countries. In the past five years, India’s exports have risen by six times. By 2024-2025, we aim to take the total exports to USD 5 billion,” he said. Towards that end, he urged the private sector to invest in the country’s defence sector.
“Amrit kaal’s India is heading ahead like a fighter pilot—a country that is not afraid of touching heights. The country thinks sharply and uses foresight, just like a fighter pilot. Most importantly, no matter how fast the speed or the height is, it is always connected to its roots, to know the ground situation—just like a fighter pilot,” he added for good measure.
In his opening remarks, defence minister Rajnath Singh said under the leadership and guidance of Prime Minister Modi the country was touching new heights in every field. He added that in the past few years, India had emerged strongly on the globe’s political and economic map.
Drawing a convergence between the air show and prime minister’s leadership skills, Singh said, “Aero India is a showcase of the aerospace sector and has two important characteristics—height and speed. These also define the prime minister’s working and personality.” He added that the first characteristic alluded to the prime minister’s “height of integrity and commitment for India” and the second to his “speed of decision-making and delivering results.” He said India had risen as a star that was not only shining brightly by itself but was also helping in enlightening other countries.
According to Singh, the defence sector in all its entirety was empowering the country. He pointed out that the sector had crossed multiple milestones which would become strong pillars in the future. The defence minister said Aero India was among those pillars.
Singh said Karnataka had always been a pioneer in industrialisation and that it had been one of the foremost states in contributing to economic growth of the country. Singh said Aero India was an example of Karnataka’s expression of the commitment to industrial and economic growth.
In Singh’s opinion, India was one of the best destinations in the world because of the business-friendly environment and cost competitiveness. “The country,” he said, “has marched ahead even in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index.” The defence minister added that India’s presidency of the G20 was also a sign of India’s growth on the global forum.
The highlight of the fly-past during the inauguration was the ‘Gurukul’ formation, which was led by the Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari. The Air Chief Marshal led the formation by flying the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) SPT flanked by the Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT), Hawk-i and the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT). The Gurukul formation was aimed at promoting Indian aircraft manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for exports.
Aero India was organised by the HAL on behalf of the department of defence production of the ministry of defence. Major global exhibitors included Airbus, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Israel Aerospace Industry, BrahMos Aerospace, Army Aviation, HC Robotics, SAAB, Safran, Rolls Royce, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) and Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML).
In a statement before the event the ministry of defence said: “The event aims to promote export of indigenous air platforms like Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, HTT-40, Dornier Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). It will integrate domestic MSMEs and start-ups in the global supply chain and attract foreign investments including partnerships for co-development and co-production.”
Aero India saw the participation of 809 defence companies, MSMEs and start-ups, showcasing their technologies. The ministry of defence termed the show the largest ever in terms of participation of countries, which stood at 98. At the Yelahanka Air Force Station, the event was organised in an area of around 35,000 square meters. Defence ministers of 32 countries, air chiefs of 29 countries, and 73 CEOs of global and Indian Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) attended the event.
Among the most important events that were held in the initial two days included the defence ministers’ conclave, the CEOs round table, the Manthan start-up event and the Bandhan ceremony.
The Bandhan event aimed at building partnerships between businesses. The event witnessed the forging of 266 partnerships, including 201 MoUs, 53 major announcements, nine product launches, and three Transfers of Technology (ToT), worth around Rs 80,000 crore. The major agreements that were seen during Bandhan ceremony included an MoU between the HAL and Safran Helicopter Engines, France; and a licence agreement for transfer of technology between the BEML and R&DEE, DRDO.
The products launch included the Vertically Launch Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile (VLSRSAM), SAL Seeker ATGM for BMP II, Jishnu, NAVIC/GPS receiver module, the indigenously built ‘Counter Drone Radar’ and the 9 mm sub-sonic ammunition among others.
The defence minister announced at the event that a record 75 per cent, or around Rs 1 lakh crore, of the defence capital procurement budget had been designated for the domestic industry in 2023-2024.
At the CEOs’ round table, officials, delegates and CEOs from 26 countries participated. Some of the major companies to participate included Boeing, Lockheed, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), General Atomics, Liebherr Group, Raytheon Technologies, Safran and General Authority of Military Industries (GAMI) among others. Domestic PSUs such as the HAL, BEL, BDL, BEML, MishraDhatu Nigam Ltd also participated.
- The exhibition area spanned 35,000 sqm as against 23,000 sqm in 2021. Flying display included 67 aircraft as opposed to 64; static display had 36 aircraft as opposed to 19; 809 exhibitors as compared to 600; and 98 nations participated as against 55
- On February 14, the ministry of defence hosted ‘SPEED’ (Shared Prosperity through Enhanced Engagements in Defence)
- The CEOs roundtable witnessed the participation of 73 business leaders, 27 of them from foreign countries
- Defence ministers of 32 nations and air chiefs from 29 friendly-foreign nations attended
- The defence ministers’ conclave focussed on the joint development of defence platforms, hardware and export of those made-in-India
- 250+ MoUs were signed
- 115 companies and 227 products were part of the aero show
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