Only for thrills ?

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Comentary -

Acom­pe­tent fi­nan­cial au­dit will cal­cu­late the ex­penses in­curred on the bi­en­nial mil­i­tary-avi­a­tion fi­esta Aero In­dia, the 11th edi­tion of which took place at IAF Ye­la­hanka, Ban­ga­lore. Un­for­tu­nately, it would be dif­fi­cult to as­sess in fi­nan­cial terms the “gains” that ac­crued from the ex­trav­a­ganza. For while 500,000 foot­falls, and mas­sive traf­fic jams when the show was thrown open to the pub­lic might tes­tify to its pop­u­lar­ity, the prime pur­pose of such events is busi­ness pro­mo­tion — the thrills that at­tracted so much at­ten­tion are a mere side-show. Hence the yard­stick by which the suc­cess of Aero In­dia 2017 — or the lack of it — must be eval­u­ated is “pro­fes­sional”, lest it de­gen­er­ate into a mela like the an­nual trade fair in the Cap­i­tal.

The in­ter­na­tional avi­a­tion in­dus­try will not in­vest much time, ef­fort and money for a mere ex­hi­bi­tion. That nearly 100 firms fewer par­tic­i­pated this year, when con­trasted with the pre­vi­ous show tells a cer­tain tale: it points to a trend that needs to be ad­dressed be­fore the next Aero In­dia. Par­tic­u­larly in the light of the “buzz” that the next event may be staged in the de­fence min­is­ter’s po­lit­i­cal baili­wick, Goa, which un­like Ban­ga­lore does not have an avi­a­tion in­dus­try track-record; and its lovely beaches are no sub­sti­tute for an in­dus­try that came into be­ing dur­ing World War II.

While no deals are ex­pected to be firmed up at such events, it is worth not­ing that while there is need for some 200 com­bat air­craft to main­tain the de­sired squadron-strength of the In­dian Air Force, no “new” as­pi­rant flipped its wings at Ye­la­hanka. The Lock­heed Martin F-16, Swedish SAAB Gripen, Das­sault’s Rafale and Rus­sian Su-30 have all been eval­u­ated be­fore, and if more at­trac­tive fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments are now on of­fer the event was not where they would be made. The grapevine has it that those firms par­tic­i­pated in Aero In­dia 2017 only be­cause they ap­pre­hended that stay­ing away would di­min­ish their chances of bag­ging an or­der.

The do­mes­tic in­dus­try did not re­ally “sell” it­self: though the pub­lic sec­tor HAL dis­played a range of he­li­copters, most of them have been on the mar­ket for some time now. The Air Chief fly­ing the Te­jas LCA was merely for show. Much was made of the “in­duc­tion” of an in­dige­nous AWACS, but this ’plane had par­tic­i­pated in the fly­past on Re­pub­lic Day, and a “big­ger” plat­form is now be­ing con­sid­ered.

It was dis­ap­point­ing that the par­tic­i­pants were in­formed that the re­vised pro­cure­ment/off­sets pol­icy would be an­nounced shortly — pru­dence de­manded that it be made pub­lic ahead of the show. The short point be­ing that Aero In­dia will at­tract the “cut­ting edge” only if In­dia con­vinces that it is ready to do busi­ness. From The States­man

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