Bengaluru / New Delhi: The address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration of the 14th edition of Aero India 2023 in Bengaluru from February 13 set the tone for the brisk business that took place at the much awaited event. As he said, “When a country moves forward with a new thinking and new approach, then its systems also start changing accordingly. This event of Aero India also reflects the new approach of New India today.” The aero show saw the indigenous defence industry getting the much needed push for moving towards the government’s ambitious “Aatmanirbhar” or self-reliant India in the field of defence industry.
Prime Minister Modi said there was a time when it was considered to be merely a show or a window to ‘Sell to India’. This perception has also changed in the country in the last few years. Today Aero India is not just a show; it is also the strength of India. Today it focuses not only on the scope of the Indian Defence Industry but on self-confidence as well. This is because today India is not just a market for the defence companies of the world. India today is also a potential defence partner. This partnership is also with those countries which are far ahead in the defence sector. India is emerging as an important partner for those countries which are looking for a reliable partner for their defence needs.
“Our technology is cost effective as well as credible for these countries. You will find ‘best innovation’ in India and ‘honest intent’ is visible before you,” Modi said.
The Air Show held biennially is a highly anticipated event in the aerospace and defence industry, as it brings together global leaders and experts to showcase the latest advancements and technologies. The show gave an opportunity to both the people of this southern metropolis as well as the foreign and domestic industry an opportunity to see a wide range of exhibits and demonstrations, including aircraft displays, technology demonstrations, and panel discussions on the latest developments in the industry.
The Air Show which is the largest aviation exhibition in Asia saw the leading Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU), Hindustan Aeronautic Limited (HAL), host the Aero exhibition at the show. The theme for Aero India 2023 was “Flying for a Better Tomorrow,” reflecting the aim of the aerospace and defence industry to develop innovative technologies and solutions to tackle the challenges faced by humanity in the 21st century.
The event provided a platform for global leaders in the aviation industry to showcase their latest advancements and explore opportunities for collaborations and partnerships. The focus was on creating a sustainable future for aviation and aerospace through cutting-edge technologies, digital transformation, and advancements in electric and hybrid aviation. With a vision to create a better tomorrow, Aero India 2023 showcased the industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability, safety, and security in air transportation.
What was indeed a feather in the cap of the Aero India Show 2023 was that it saw as many as 266 partnerships including 201 MoUs, 53 major announcements and nine product launches being firmed up that could unlock business potentials worth around Rs 80,000 crore. The MoUs included one between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Safran Helicopter Engines of France for work share for formation of joint venture for design, development, manufacture and life time support of helicopter engines.
The show saw the historic debut of F-35, US Air Force’s newest fifth – generation fighters – the F-35A Lightning II and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter for the first time to take part in Aero India-2023. It saw the UK government assert its commitment to Aatmanirbhar Bharat saying that its defence sector was deployed in force at the show with an ambition to not only ‘Make in India,’ but also ‘Create in India.’
Another exhibit which attracted tremendous attention at the show was the Jetpack suit, manufactured by a Bengaluru-based startup which drew large number of eyeballs for its uniqueness and is in the reckoning for the contract by the armed forces. The Indian armed forces have placed a Request for Proposal (RFP) for procurement of 48 jet suits on trial basis. If they pass the test, the Army would initiate large scale procurement, sources said. Manufactured by Absolute Composite Private Limited, based in Bengaluru, the jetpack suit has used five engines, including the turbo engine in the back.
The show saw the Garuda Aerospace unveiling its solar-powered drone “SURAJ”, designed specifically for surveillance operations, and it was unveiled by the Principal Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister and former DRDO Chief Dr Satheesh Reddy. According to the company, SURAJ is an ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) high-altitude drone designed specifically for surveillance operations, providing “real-time information to the high command and protecting jawans on the ground.” It said the drone’s unique J-shaped wings are equipped with solar-powered cells that serve as its primary fuel source, while an auxiliary battery provides additional propulsion or decreased speed as required.
Another major landmark at the Aero India 2023 was the participation by Israel this year which marked 30 years of Indo-Israel defence collaboration. SIBAT, the International Defence Collaboration Directorate of the Israel Ministry of Defence, is in charge of fostering defence cooperation between Israel and India. The show saw the demonstration of some defence technologies developed by Israel including Air Defence Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), Aerial and Ground Precise Guided Munitions, Electronic Warfare (EW) Systems, Land and Naval Solutions, Avionic Systems, Air and Missile Defence Systems.
In a major boost to indigenous defence industry, the CMD of Munitions India Limited, Ravi Kant said that the company has got orders for more than 10 lakh multi-mode grenades for Indian armed forces and over Rs 3,000 crores of orders for exports.
As part of India’s efforts to attract foreign defence industries to this country, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met CEOs of global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on sidelines of the Show. At the meeting, Singh invited global OEMs to co-develop, co-produce, integrate and strengthen supply chains, form joint ventures, set up manufacturing in India and make for the world. The meeting was attended by the CEOs and senior management of General Atomics, Safran, Boeing, Embraer and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems.
During the interaction, Singh highlighted that India offers significant advantages of competitive land costs, skilled human capital, a vibrant start-up ecosystem and a huge domestic defence market to the Global Defence industry.
Emphasising the importance of the defence sector for India, Singh said, “Defence production meets the twin goals of becoming self-reliant in a critical sector as well as generating jobs for our people.” He said incentives were being given by Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu state governments for investment in Defence Industrial Corridors, while the central government policies is also promoting FDI and defence manufacturing in India, the strong legal system protecting stakeholders’ interests and improvements in ease of doing business.
“There are opportunities to co-develop, co-produce, integrate and strengthen supply chains, from joint ventures, set up manufacturing in India and make for the world,” he said.
In keeping with the theme “The Runway to a Billion Opportunities,” the show had on display locally-produced equipment and technologies to attract partnerships with foreign companies. It also included aerial displays by aircraft and helicopters, as well as a large exhibition and trade fair of aerospace and defence companies. About 809 companies from 98 countries took part in the event.
The Defence Minister equated defence start-ups with “new energy, new commitment and new enthusiasm” at the “Start-Up Manthan.” Praising the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) initiative, launched under the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), he said this has enabled the emergence of talent from across the country. As more and more “technology challenges” are given to young defence innovators, the solutions save money and add to indigenisation. Singh launched the ninth edition of Defence India Start-up Challenges (DISC-9) on “Cybersecurity” with 28 problem statements, and the iDEX Investor Hub (iIH).
“More than Rs 200 crores have already been pledged under iIH by leading Indian investors,” stated the MoD.
With increasing use of drones by Pakistan on the Western borders specially for dropping narcotic substances, it has indeed become imperative to develop a technology to counter this increasing menace. The show saw the display of indigenously developed anti-drone system D4S (Drone Detect, Deter and Destroy) which technology was developed by DRDO and manufactured by Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
As Manoj Jain, Director (R and D) BEL explained that D4S can detect rogue drones likely to attack a location and tackle any imminent security threats. These drones can destroy micro-drones by jamming the command and control links. These drones are indeed the need of the hour and would also come in handy along borders which are also used for smuggling drugs and arms for terrorists.
The show also saw DPSU HAL ink an MoU with HENSOLDT, South Africa for exploring collaboration to co-develop and co-produce stabilized multi-sensor airborne electro-optics Gimbal for Indian rotary and unmanned platforms and for future exports. HAL also signed an MoU with Skygear Aviation Pvt Ltd for collaboration on design, development and manufacture of UAV systems for 10 to 200 kgs payload using Drone Copter.
Apart from giving an opportunity for the thousands who came to witness the show, it also lived up to its motto “Make in India, Make for the World,” which has been the central theme of the government in the defence sector, Aero India-2023 put strong emphasis on showcasing home grown machinery and innovations as well as establishing alliances with foreign businesses.