South Asia’s biggest airshow kicks off in India on Wednesday, where global armament firms will be vying for multibillion-dollar contracts from the world’s biggest importer of weapons.
India launched the biannial Aero India event in 1996, three years before a mini-war with Pakistan prompted New Delhi to go on a global shopping spree for tens of billions of dollars worth of hardware to equip its million-strong military.
A total of 78 countries have confirmed their attendance, while firms from 27 of them will showcase their products at the five-day show in Bangalore, the hub of India’s aviation and information-technology industries.
India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics, which signed a deal with Russia in 2010 worth US$30 billion to jointly produce 250 to 300 fifth-generation fighter jets, says it hopes to ink major contracts during the show.
Seattle-based Boeing Co last year pipped its rivals to provide India with 37 attack and heavy-lift helicopters worth more than US$1 billion. Negotiations are currently underway.
Such negotiations are not a guarantee of sale in Indian defense deals, which are often held up by administrative problems and red tape.
In February last year, India chose France’s Dassault Aviation as the preferred bidder in a US$12 billion deal for 126 fighter jets, but talks are still underway with no progress expected this financial year. Other deals still awaiting a green light include a US$600 million contract to supply 197 helicopters to the army, which was scrapped in 2007 after being awarded to the European manufacturer Eurocopter.
The US will provide the largest contingent of companies at the show, with 67, marking growing ties between the two countries, the chief organizer said.
France, Israel and Russia — India’s biggest arms supplier — also have a large presence at the show, Indian Defense Production Secretary R.K. Mathur said, adding that Pakistan had not been invited.