‘RUNWAY TO A BILLION OPPORTUNITIES’ – RAKSHA MANTRI INAUGURATES AERO INDIA 2019
Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
Bengaluru, 20 February 2019
Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the 12th biennial edition of International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition and declared the Aero India 2019 open today amidst a lot of fanfare at Air Force Station Yelahanka in Bengaluru. This edition of Aero India, for the first time, combines the defence and civil aviation segments into a holistic event with the co-involvement of the defence and civil aviation ministries in the event. More than 600 Indian Companies and 200 Foreign Companies are participating and witnessing the largest Air show of Asia.
Present at the occasion were Chief Minister of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu, Raksha Rajya Mantri Dr Subhash Bhamre, Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation Sadananda Gowda, the three Service Chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force, Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, Secretary Defence Production Dr Ajay Kumar, Chairman and Secretary DRDO Dr Satheesh Reddy, delegates from several foreign countries, senior serving officers from the three Services, veterans, and senior executives from defence industries.
During her inaugural address Nirmala Sitharaman welcomed a host of Foreign Ministers and Deputy Ministers along with their delegations who were representing various countries from all around the world. She said that this edition of Aero India intended and endeavoured to put India on the Global map and intended metaphorically to be a “Runway to a billion opportunities”!
She said that lately India had established itself as the hub of manufacturing and export of various world class avionics equipment and she added that the country now had the potential for “Nose to tail production”. She hailed the “Make in India” initiative of the Government that had provided the impetus for increased self-reliance in Defence and stressed on the need for instituting provisions for creating the ecosystem for utilisation and consolidation of design and manufacturing facilities to create a ‘robust supply chain system’.
Talking about Defence procurements, Raksha Mantri added that during the last four years, 150 contracts worth Rs 1,27,500 Cr had been signed with Indian vendors for procurement of defence equipment for the Armed forces. She also mentioned that the Government had accorded AoN to 164 proposals worth Rs 2,79,950 Cr under ‘Buy and Make” categories only to the Indian vendors. She also mentioned that the VoP in respect of OFB and DPSUs had grown from 43,746 Cr in 2013-14 to Rs 58,163 Cr in 2017-18, out of which 40% of the production had been outsourced to the Private Sector and that the Government had also issued RFP for the manufacture of seven identified types of ammunition in private sector.
During her address, Raksha Mantri hailed several policy initiatives of the Government under the ‘Make in India’ viz. 100% FDI in Defence Manufacturing, Defence Offset Policy 2016, Delicensing of Defence items, iDEX and the Defence Investor’s cell. She quoted S 92 Helicopter cabin, Advance Aircraft Cockpit, Glass Cockpit for Dornier and CH-47 Pylon for Boeing as some recent successes displayed at the Indian Pavilion. She also hailed Indian PSUs for manufacturing more than 4000 aircraft including LCA, LCH, ALH, C295 etc.
She applauded the 10,000 MSMEs which made 80% of components, aggregates and assemblies of complex weapon systems and aircrafts. She also informed that more than 424 companies had obtained the licence for Defence production which was almost double the number in last four years. Raksha Mantri mentioned the ‘Defence Investor cell’ which was set up in Jan 2018, to enhance the ‘Ease of doing Business’ and informed that over 350 industries had been facilitated till date. She also mentioned that 275 Ordnance Factory items had been de-notified and also that testing facilities of DPSUs and OFs had been opened up for private industry.
She told that 34 projects relating to Army, Navy and Air Force had already been accorded ‘Approval in Principle’ under the ‘Make-II’ category. The Raksha Mantri mentioned that the FDI policy had been revised and now foreign investments upto 49% were allowed through the automatic route and above 49% under Government route. She also mentioned that in last four years, six companies in Defence and Aerospace sectors had obtained government approval for FDI of Rs 237 Cr while FDI of over Rs 200 Cr had been received through the automatic route.
The Raksha Mantri informed the audience about the iDEX scheme which was launched on 12th April 2018, to create a network of Defence Innovation hubs throughout the country and to resolve Defence and Aerospace related issues. She also informed about the first innovation hub that had already started at Coimbatore and setting up of the two defence corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the latest one being in Tiruchirappalli on 20 Jan 2019 wherein investments of more than Rs 3200 Cr were committed by the Defence Industry. She also mentioned the ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’, launched by the Ministry of Defence, to create greater capacity development and encourage greater filing of patents in defence and aerospace sectors.
Nirmala Sitharaman further stated that the government was committed to create an enabling environment for a domestic ecosystem of defence manufacturing, the results of which were already visible. She said, “With the policy initiatives and the procedural reforms, I am confident that India will emerge as a key player in the global defence arena. We will create an ecosystem in which there would be enhanced technological collaborations of the public as well as private sectors with the foreign Defence OEMs. Strategic partnerships will be forged with increased integration of skills, systems, technologies and manufacturing capabilities.”
Chief Minister of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy welcomed the ministers and other delegates. Minister for Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu and Raksha Rajya Mantri Dr Subhash Bhamre also spoke on the occasion.
The inaugural address was followed by three Mi-17 V-5 helicopters flying past the dais in ‘Vic’ formation carrying the Indian tricolour, the Air Force ensign and the Aero India flag. The air display commenced with a solitary vintage Dakota flying by the stands. Thereafter a host of indigenously manufactured helicopters including the LUH, ALH Mk III and IV and LCH filled the skies with their jet wash. This followed by three ALH Mk IV (Rudra) in a ‘Vic’ formation. Following the fly past by the indigenous Dornier 228 flanked by the Hawk-i and HTT-40, came the Sukhoi flanked by LCA Tejas and Jaguar in the Missing man Formation as a homage to Wg Cdr Sahil Gandhi who lost his life in a fatal air collision yesterday during a practice sortie of the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team. This was followed by the fighters thundering over the grandstand through the skies displaying a host of aerobatic manoeuvres – the Su 30 MKI followed by indigenous Tejas LCA, the American F-16 Falcon and the French Rafale. A host of helicopters including the LUH, LCH, ALH Mk-IV and the Sarang helicopter display team enthralled the spectators with their performance. The finale started with an air display by Airbus 330 Neo followed by a grand flyby by the majestic B-52 Bombers of 1950 vintage.
A total of 61 aircraft are participating in the event out of which 31 are flying. The total area of the show has grown from 27,678 sq m to 28,398 sq m this year.
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 17 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.