The 12th edition of biennial airshow Aero India got underway on a sombre note on Wednesday with the IAF flying a special “missing man’’ formation in memory of Wg Cdr Sahil Gandhi, 37, who died when a Hawk 132 aircraft crashed during a rehearsal for the event on Tuesday.
An IAF Jaguar, Tejas LCA and a Sukhoi 30 Mki flew the special formation as a tribute to the former Sukhoi 30 pilot.
In her inaugural address, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the aerospace sector in the country is gradually moving towards being an exporter and not merely an importer.
“India is gradually emerging as a player with tremendous potential of defence exports. Some of the important achievements in this area are Dornier Aircraft Do-228 exported to Mauritius; ALH Dhruv exported to Nepal, Maldives and Mauritius; Cheetal helicopter exported to Afghanistan; Radar Warning Receiver exported to Russia; Thermal Image Fire Control System exported to Israel; and Airvan 8 to Botswana,’’ she said.
“The process of granting ‘No Objection Certificate’ for export of defence stores has been simplified. Simplification of procedures has resulted in the issue of export permissions for Rs 7,138 crore in 2018-19 (till December 2018) as against Rs 4,682 crore for the entire 2017-18. I am happy to inform that our defence exports are doubling every year in the last few years,’’ she said.
“Defence Public Sector Undertakings have been encouraged to increase their export portfolio to 25 per cent of their turnover by 2022-23,’’ Sitharaman added.
The success stories from the Make in India are on display at the Aero India exhibition in the form of the S 92 Helicopter cabin, Advanced Aircraft Cockpit, Glass Cockpit for Dornier and CH-47 Pylon for Boeing, she said.
The opening day of the 2019 edition of Aero India also marked a key step in assimilation of the indigenously manufactured Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas, from the HAL stable into the Indian Air Force with the “formal declaration of Final Operational Clearance of the aircraft’’ by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
The Initial Operational Clearance for the LCA was granted in 2013.
The IAF has inducted eight LCAs with IOC and has placed orders for induction of 12 LCAs with IOC and 20 LCAs with FOC.
One of the highlights of the flying display on the opening day was the Rafale fighter jet by French firm Dassault Aviation.
Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier, who is attending Aero India, said, “There is no scandal in the Rafale deal. We are going to deliver 36 aircraft. If the Government of India wants more aircraft, we will be pleased to deliver. There is also an RFI (Request for Information) for 110 aircraft and we are in the race because we feel Rafale is the best aircraft and we have our footprint here in India. So we feel confident here in India,” he said.