Until a couple of months ago, Aero India 2021 was mired in speculation. Will the show happen? Will it happen on the ground or in virtual space? Will anyone come to the show? Will it be safe to participate in the show? Would the rampaging corona virus be in retreat by the time the show happens?
Clearly, the answer to the last question determined everything else. Despite the misgivings, and the fear of a new strain of the virus, the government of India and the ministry of defence was determined that the show would go on. And it would take place at its traditional venue, air force station Yelahanka. The only uncertainty, as far as the government was concerned was the size of the show. Well, government’s show, government’s rules. So here we are with the Aero India special issue.
While modernisation of the armed forces and defence procurements has been work in progress for several years now, in the last few months owing to the border crisis with China in the north and east, these twin objectives have assumed both urgency and nuance. However, what has added complexity to this is economic slowdown and Prime Minister’s clarion call of self-reliance. As a result, in addition to balancing money with machines, now the services also have to balance technology with nationalism. In this web of conflicting priorities, the Defence Acquisition Procedure has been trying to shine a beacon.
The cover story in this Aero India special issue attempts to follow the path illuminated by the beacon to make sense of all that has been said, as well as that which has been left unsaid. Since it is a special issue on the trade show, the bulk of articles this month pertains to defence industry, but at the same time, we have not lost sight of the challenges that the Indian Air Force faces. Hence, there are articles by senior officers on how it is more critical today than ever for the IAF to prioritise wisely, taking into account not just the present threat, but also the way this threat will manifest itself in the next few years. The challenge is not just about India’s territorial integrity, but the leap of technology, which is creating unimaginable asymmetry.
Hopefully, their voices are heard in the right quarters. Hopefully, the Pandemic is behind us, and all of us are able to reclaim some semblance of our lives as they were before 2020.