Bengaluru: Sixty one aircraft, more than 400 exhibitors and counting!
Do these numbers matter? Perhaps not, for the 12th edition of Aero India commencing at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, on February 20, could well turn into a venue where mega buck contracts will be announced between global majors in aerospace and defence and the Indian industry, with the 'Make in India,' initiative drawing more foreign companies to strike partnerships with local firms to roll out weapons and weapon-related systems for the domestic and global markets. The size of these contracts, therefore, could overshadow the number of aircraft on display or the number of exhibitors at the five-day event. The importance of Aero India 2019 was best summed up by former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha (Retd): "India is a huge market for weapon systems. We are importing a lot, but we need to go headlong with ‘Make in India’ initiative and forge partnerships with foreign companies which are ready to partner our MSMEs," he told Deccan Chronicle on the eve of the air show.
At the air show, head honchos of global majors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corporation are set to build partnerships with local firms and set up production hubs to address the requirements of the Indian armed forces as well as provide components and systems to the global market.
"We are very excited to participate in Aero India, and will talk to representatives to explore the basket of opportunities which are growing like everything else is growing in India," says Mr Thomas Breckenridge, Vice President, Global Sales, Boeing Defence, about possible collaborations. Ditto with Lockheed Martin Corporation.
"We have been here many years and we have seen significant growth over the last ten years. We are here to form partnerships with the industry and government in view of the 'Make in India' initiative which has been evolving with some very good examples of strategic partnership programmes," Mr Phil Shaw, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin India Pvt Ltd.
In addition to MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises), public sector companies too are looking for opportunities to foray into the global market through partnerships with foreign firms.
"We know the opportunities which are visible to us now and we will make the most of them through the 'Make in India' initiative," said Mr M V Gowtama, Chairman & Managing Director, Bharat Electronics, Bengaluru.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman is scheduled to inaugurate the five-day biennial event organised by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Wednesday.