BENGALURU: It's the stiff race between a 'smart' Gripen E of Sweden's SAAB and a customised F-16 of Lockheed Martin of the United States which will stand out over aerobatics of other flying machines at the premier air show - Aero India 2017- likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, here on February 14.
These two fighters will be watched for their prowess, for the Ministry of Defence (MoD), has hand-picked them for manufacture of a single engine fighter jet as part of the 'Make in India' initiative to replace MiG-21.
SAAB and Lockheed Martin have confirmed receiving a Request for Information (RFI), the first step towards a collaborative venture for rolling out these single engine military jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) as well as the multi-billion dollar global market.
"We should see some movement as the RFI for single engine fighter planes has been issued," former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal (retd.) Fali Homi Major told DC, adding "we are looking forward to watching the display by Chinook and Apache helicopters and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft as the contracts for them have been signed."
Commenting on Aero India, SAAB chairman and managing director, Jan Widerstrom admitted that its presence at the show was related to "its commitment to contributing to India's ambition to build a self- reliant indigenous defence industry of global standards." Sweden's SAAB will be displaying its Gripen E , the latest offering from its stable. It claims the single engine aircraft is the ultimate development of its Gripen NG project.
A 4.5 generation aircraft that combines exceptional performance with BVR capability, the Gripen is said to be cost efficient as well. SAAB will also offer the Sea Gripen, the maritime variant, for the Indian Navy. The other aircraft that will be closely watched is the Lockheed Martin F-16.
Lockheed Martin’s F16 to be major attraction
The major participants at the air show are expected to be Lockheed Martin which is pitching its F-16 to the Indian Air Force, Saab which is offering its latest Gripen-E fighter and France’s Dassault Aviation’s Rafale. The Eurofighter Typhoon is also set to make a splash at the air show. Russian legacy aircraft are, as usual, set to be present at the air show with Sukhoi Aircraft Holding Company the biggest player among them. Boieng is set to make a mark as it is bringing its Chinook transport helicopter and Apache combat chopper.
Thales, which is a global technology leader for the Aerospace, Transport, Defence and Security markets, will be looking to showcase its wide range of products. Thales provides a number of state-of-the-art equipment and systems onboard the Rafale which has been purchased by India. These include the RBE2 AESA radar, the Spectra electronic warfare system, visual optronics, the communication navigation and identification system (CNI), the majority of the cockpit display systems, power generation systems and a logistics support component. The company will look to showcase these key systems as well as the new generation multi-function targeting pod and the airborne reconnaissance observation system at Aero India 2017.