Bangalore braces for air show from Wednesday

Bangalore : India’s aerospace hub Bangalore will be on full throttle from Wednesday to demonstrate the country’s air prowess and display breath-taking aerobatics at the air force station on the outskirts.

Touted as Asia’s premier air show, the ninth edition of the five-day biennial international expo on aerospace, defence and civil aviation Aero Inda 2013 will witness the strike power of French fighters Rafale, the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) the Indian Air Force (IAF) has selected to replace its ageing Russian MiG-21 fleet.

“Obviously, Rafale will be the star of the show as its vendor Dassault Aviation beat five other contenders for the multi-billion dollar deal,” a defence official told IANS here.

The upbeat French major has flown in three Rafale fighters, two for aerial display and one for static display at the IAF base.

Its test pilot Cedric Ruet, who flew the fighter in the previous air show, will be again at the controls to demonstrate its air power.

The twin-engine delta-wing Rafale outsmarted Eurofighter Typhoon, which was also shortlisted out of the six global aerospace majors, including Russian MiG-35, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Falcon, Boeing’s F-18 Hornet and Swedish Saab Gripen for the IAF order of 126 aircraft, with 18 to be built in France and 108 to be assembled by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) in Bangalore.

There is also an option built into the contract to buy an additional 63 Rafales later this decade.

“The Rafale deal is yet to be finalised as discussions are at an advance stage of negotiations on price, technology transfer and offsets,” the official said.

Vying for equal attention will be other metal birds including the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter, F-16 of US major Lockheed Martin, Russian Sukhoi, British jet trainer Hawk and French Mirage 2000, which will participate in the flying display twice a day.

Hogging the limelight will be Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift military transport aircraft, which will be joining the IAF’s wing fleet this year, the weaponised version of HAL’s advance light helicopter Rudra, its multi-role version Dhruv, prototype of its light combat helicopter (LCH).

The naval variant of LCA with armament mock-ups, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) Rustom-1 and Nishant on launch vehicles will be on display at the Indian pavilion along with missiles of the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and its various units

“The dazzling display in formation by the IAF Sarang helicopter team and aerobatics by Russian Knights in Sukhoi-27 combat aircraft and Flying Bulls from Czech Republic will be a major attraction,” the official said.

To be flagged off by Defence Minister A.K. Antony in the presence of 78 foreign delegations, services chiefs and other dignitaries, the event will witness about 60 civil and military aircraft, choppers and passenger planes in action in air and on the ground.

The largest overseas participation is expected from the US, followed by Israel and Russia.

There will be country pavilions from Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia and Ukraine.

Organised by the defence ministry in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the trade fair will be spread across 125,000 square metres, with 650 exhibitors from 27 nations.