The sixth biannual Aero India Aerospace & Defence exhibition held Feb. 7-11 at Yelahanka Air Force Station here saw the largest industry participation yet, with 503 defense companies from 33 countries showing their wares and seeking business alliances, organizers said.
That was a dramatic increase from the 380 companies exhibiting in 2005.
Wing Com. Rajesh Kumar Dhingra, joint director of India’s Defence Exhibition Organisation, said the show is slowly but surely becoming another Farnborough air show.
Sanjay Ganjoo, joint director of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the main organizer of the exhibition, said 40 high-profile defense delegations and 25 air chiefs attended, along with about 20,000 businesspeople — not to mention 40,000 members of the general public.
A Defense Ministry official said India signed no defense contracts at the show, but more than a dozen agreements were forged between Indian and international defense companies.
The flight demonstrations included an F-16 briefly piloted by Indian tycoon Ratan Tata of the Tata Group, and a minor crash of the prototype version of India’s homegrown Intermediate Jet Trainer on Feb. 8.
Bringing Order to Chaos
India’s Ministry of Defence adopted its Defense Procurement Procedure in June to put in place a procurement guideline for the defense industry, said Saurabh Kumar, director of the Department of Defence Production’s Directorate of Planning & Coordination.
The Defense Procurement Procedure calls for a local company to receive offsets — or work — worth 30 percent of the value of defense contracts, defines procedures for “buy” and “buy & make” categories, establishes fast-track procedures as well as standard contract document guidelines and indigenous naval shipbuilding procedures.
“They came out with a policy in 2005 for offsets but it was imperfect, and in June 2006, a new procedure was adopted to clarify the offset procedure,” he said Feb. 7.
The problem, said Kumar, was a matter of definition. “What constitutes an offset? What is the framing of offset proposals? What Indian companies are eligible to participate? India is such a big country that foreign defense contractors didn’t know where to go. So in 2006, a change was made.”
In September, the Defence Offset Facilitation Agency (DOFA) was created as part of the Defense Procurement Procedure to help facilitate the policy.
DOFA provides foreign defense contractors with a database of qualified Indian companies.
“Now that foreign defense contractors are coming to India, they are discovering an abundance of qualified suppliers and partners,” said Kumar. “We want to create a win-win situation for both the Indian company and the foreign defense contractor. Prior to 2005, there was no offset policy.”
This is part of a new attitude in India’s defense environment.
“I want to emphasize in the future we want to establish a new relationship with foreign companies,” said Kumar, adding that the potential spinoff technologies for Indian industries working on offsets for foreign defense companies is large.
“The first contract under this new policy is a $55 million offset contract with Israel’s Elta for medium-power radars, expected to be signed in March,” said Kumar.
Lockheed Encourages Innovation
As part of an overarching effort to win the trust of Indian officials and thus their business, Lockheed Martin has teamed with the nation’s chamber of commerce to help globally commercialize the ideas from India’s most innovative companies.
The India Innovation Growth Program teams the world’s largest defense company with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) and the IC2 Institute of the University of Texas, which specializes in technology commercialization.
The program is open to Indian companies large and small in all industrial sectors that would register by Internet at www.IndiaInnovates.in. After a competitive process, 30 companies will initially be selected, with six making it to the finish line.
Lockheed is bankrolling the two-year project for an undisclosed sum. It will be administered by the IC2, which will help train and advise the winning firms. FICCI will draw on its membership of 1,500 companies and 500 chambers of commerce and associations that in turn represent 250,000 business units.
The announcement at a press conference here came Feb. 6, the day before the start of the show.
“What we want to do is provide a process to aid new technology companies in how to approach global markets,” said Robert Trice, the senior vice president for business development at Lockheed. “Our ability to do business here depends on relations of our two countries. There will be ups and downs, but we believe this program is exactly the kind of program we need to cement our relationships with local industry.”
As for FICCI, the trade group wants to help reinvigorate India’s science and engineering capabilities.
“We want to bring the scientific and innovation culture back into this country,” said V.K. Topa, the adviser to the FICCI secretary general. “We were proud of our scientific capabilities. Somewhere along the way, we lost it and the time has come to get back on the scientific map of the world.”
Safran Says India Presence Key
Like many defense manufacturers, France’s Safran Group sees great potential in the Indian market, particularly for joint ventures. What’s got Safran, in particular, salivating is the prospect of new combat aircraft and helicopter programs that will require hundreds of turbofan and turboshaft engines — Safran’s specialty through its Snecma and Turbomeca companies.
The company hopes that its long relationship will pay dividends when India one day pulls the trigger on a number of pending programs.
“We have a long-standing presence in India; the Indian Air Force has deployed French planes for decades,” Safran Group CEO Jean-Paul Bechat said Feb. 8. “During the last five years, we have significantly improved our presence in India and today we employ 1,000-plus people here.”
Bechat, though, would like to see that number grow exponentially, which it would if the Kaveri engine, for example, was chosen to power India’s “Tejas” Light Combat Aircraft.
“Our mission in India is to develop a fighter engine,” said Bechat. “This engine has been in development for many years at the Indian Gas Turbine Research Establishment in Bangalore.”
“Our offer is a partnership to help Indian industry to accelerate the process and do something that’s never been done before.”
In the nearer term, Safran’s Turbomeca and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) are nearing first flight of the Shakti engine for the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter, scheduled for this year. HAL has 11 percent of the program, which over the years could advance to a stake as high as 73 percent.
BAE Displays Once-Secret UAV
Last year, BAE Systems took the wraps off the work it had secretly been doing on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Barely 12 months later, the British company used Aero India 2007 to internationally debut the first vehicle it is proposing for sale.
The company used the show to position its High Endurance Rapid Technology Insertion (HERTI) vehicle for Indian requirements over the next five to 10 years in land, coastal and even maritime roles, said BAE’s Herman Claesen, the business development executive at the company’s Autonomous Systems & Future Capability (Air) section.
“We are trying to open up export markets and India is one of the biggest operators of UAVs in the world,” Claesen said Feb. 7. “In part, though, this is about making people aware BAE now has UAVs in its portfolio of products.”
The BAE executive said there are opportunities emerging in the United Kingdom and Asia for HERTI as it seeks its first order.
As part of its awareness campaign, BAE expects to show the vehicle at shows in Australia, Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia and the United Kingdom this year.
The HERTI vehicle is a fully autonomous system that Claesen said fills a gap in the market between tactical UAVs and the larger, medium-altitude long-endurance platforms like Predator.
The aircraft can fly for 25 hours and at an altitude of 20,000 feet — with plans to push altitude limits up to between 30,000 and 35,000 feet.
Northrop, Bharat Pen Deal
India’s Bharat Electronics and Northrop Grumman agreed Feb. 7 to explore co-production agreements to serve Indian government contracts for aerospace and defense electronics.
India’s medium multirole combat aircraft will need an active electronically scanned array radar, similar to the one Northrop Grumman is showcasing on its exhibition stand at the Aero India 2007 show here.
The agreement may also lead to Bharat Electronics making parts as a Northrop subcontractor.
Bharat Electronics is India’s premier defense electronics company, covering areas including communications, radar, sonar, electro-optics and electronic warfare systems.
Battle Over the High Seas
After years of negotiations over its future maritime patrol aircraft, the Indian Navy has decided neither the Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion nor the Ilyushin Il-38 is advanced enough to meet its needs, a senior Indian Navy official said last month.
Instead, Navy officials invited Boeing’s P-8I and EADS CASA’s Airbus A319 to be tested in a still-open 2005 tender for eight aircraft to replace aging P-3s. A decision is expect by year’s end.
The tender, whose value is estimated at $800 million, seeks an aircraft that can serve for 25 years; endure a yearlong trial period; fly for eight hours without refueling; hunt submarines; and carry mines, torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.
France’s Dassault also bid last April, but was not selected for further study.
The P-8, which is being built for the U.S. Navy, is a variant of the 737-800. India is being offered the P-8I, the first variant offered internationally, said Tim Norgart, director of business development, Airborne, Anti-Submarine Warfare & Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems. The P-8I has a range of 4,800 nautical miles, or double that with aerial refueling, Norgart said.
The EADS CASA entrant has a 2,000-nautical-mile range and cannot be refueled in the air, said Fernando Ciria, head of marketing, EADS CASA Mission Aircraft.
By Andrew Chuter, Wendell Minnick, Vago Muradian, Vivek Raghuvanshi and Barry Rosenberg contributed to this report.