M A I N   N E W S

US, Israel & Europe vie to step on Russian turf at Aero India
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

Bangalore, February 5
With India looking to spend an approximate $100 billion on military supplies over the next decade, the United States, Israel and European countries are attempting to widen their footprint on the country’s defence market by marking up participation in the ninth edition of the biennial Aero India 2013 that starts here tomorrow.

Russia, New Delhi’s largest military supplier, has also made a strong pitch to maintain its lead. Since Aero India 2011, Russia, which accounts for 70 per cent of Indian defence purchases, has lost four crucial multi-billion dollar bids to American or European firm.

American firm Boeing won the tender for attack and heavy left copters beating the Russian MI-28 and MI-26, respectively. The $11 billion (approx Rs 55,000 crore) deal for 126 fighter jets was bagged by the French Dassault Aviation, while the Russian MiG-35 and four others were left out.

Similarly, the Russian IL-78 -- already being used by the Indian Air Force -- lost out to the European Airbus in the bid for the mid-air re-fueller used to fuel jets mid-flight to enhance endurance.

The US-India Business Council (USIBC) is sending its executive defense mission to the five-day event.

Senior executives from America’s premier aerospace and defence companies will be here. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is the host and organiser for Aero India and is USIBC’s partner on the ground. General Jeff Kohler (retd) will lead the US delegation.

India has purchased US equipment worth over $8 billion. In 2011, it was the second largest foreign military sales (FMS) customer for the US with sales of $4.5 billion. Medium lift transport planes, and the $1.1 billion C-130-J have joined the IAF fleet. The 10 heavy lift transporters, C-17-III Globemaster, will start arriving in India from June while the Navy will get phased deliveries of eight Posedion-8I, a naval reconnaissance plane. On the other hand, Russia remains a key supplier of weaponry to India with the joint development project for the $30 billion fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), the multi-role transport aircraft and licence-production of the Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, besides missiles like the BrahMos.

Deputy general director of Russia’s state arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, Viktor Komardin, will lead the Russian delegation. Last year alone, Russia inked agreements worth $3.5 billion with India at Aero India, including those for the purchase of 71 Mi-17-V5 armed helicopters and the delivery of 42 Su-30MKI fighters. The current value of Indian contracts is worth more than $ 7 billion.

Rosoboronexport aims to annually ship at least $3 billion worth of weapons and material under existing contracts to India. It is expected to promote its aircraft -- including the Be-200 amphibious plane -- and also showcase its prowess in the deal to buy 197 surveillance helicopters at Bangalore. The Russian Kamov Ka-226 is in the race with the Eurocopter.

The Eurocopter will be present with its helicopter product line to meet a range of India military, governmental and civilian missions. Israel's national pavilion will display an array of innovative defence companies.





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