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Highlights from 2021 Aero India

B1 Lancer along with Tejas during the inaugural day of Aero India 2021. (Photo courtesy of Saurav Chordia)
February 10, 2021

From fighter jets to unique and advanced future defense systems, the 13th edition of Aero India had it all, showcased over three days on Yelahanka Air Base in Bengaluru, India.

The exhibition was held for three days against the tradition of five days due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Still, the event attracted almost 14 million visitors during this aviation mega festival. Around 14 country delegations and companies joined the congregation, with 78 foreign exhibitors showcasing their range of platforms to attract fruitful business on Indian soil.

It was the first of its kind in the world: a hybrid virtual and physical setup. Through challenges of a pandemic, the show completed the exhibition by following all protocols to protect the visitors.

Here are some of the highlights from Aero India 2021:

As the first day of Aero India began, the first exhibition was the final signing of 83 HAL Tejas Mk1A, worth $6 billion between the Indian Air Force and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

The day featured a thrilling air flyover of US Air Force B1B Lancer Strategic Swept Wing Bomber with IAF LCA TEJAS. Fighters like Su-30Mki, SEPECAT Jaguar and Helicopter like HAL LCH, Dhruv were also in an air display during the first day.

The biggest eye-catcher was DRDO Aeronautical Designing Agency’s Combat Air Teaming System (CATS), a balanced amalgamation of unmanned drones in swarm formation and long-range stealth cruise missile on-board, controlled by slave command of Twin seater LCA Tejas. Acting as mother ship to the swarm of various drones, it included ALPHA series Stealth ALCM, Warrior Loyal Wingman drone and Pod launched swarm drones.
Apart from CATS, India unveiled its final design of ambitious fifth-generation fighter AMCA, as well.

The second day featured a Request For Proposal issued for HAL for manufacturing 70 HTT-40 Basic Trainer Aircraft with 38 more on options. These aircraft will be built on both facilities of HAL in Nashik and Bengaluru.

HAL also signed MoU with Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd for composite material for the upcoming production of LCA Tejas Mk1A Jet fuselage and wing development.

Apart from these two crucial business, stalls of foreign exhibitors, including companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin from the USA, Elbit and Rafael Systems from Israel, Dassault Aviation and Safran from France, Rosoboronexport, Sukhoi and Almaz Antey from Russia, and BAE Thales from the UK, made their appearances in the exhibition.

Boeing’s F-15EX and F/A-18 Block 3 and Lockheed Martin’s F-21 Viper and C-130J Super Hercules were on lead display from the USA, while Sikorsky had its MH-60R Romeo Helicopter on the viewing. The air spectators saw DRDO Netra, BAE Hawk, C-17, Mirages in the sky showing the might over the city with formation and maneuvers.

On the final day of the show, the air display magnitude was increased, marking the end of the spectacular festival of Aerospace and Defense showcases. Totaling 201, Memomdrum Of Understanding was signed between Civil and Defense contractors with state and central government, and with foreign and domestic companies like Elbit System. Safran from France and Lockheed Martin from USA Signed MoUs with HAL. Boeing had advanced talks with IAF officials to promote F-15EX.

Bharat Electronics Limited Signed an MoU with ROSOBORONEXPORT of Russia and Airbus did the same with the GMR group.

As the day came to an end, even DRDO handed over a Licensing Agreement for ToT for 14 DRDO developed technologies to 20 Industries for the following platforms:

Low-Level Transportable Radar
Inertial Navigation System for Ship
Long-range Optical Target Locator
Hand-Held Through Wall Imaging Radar
Commander TI Sight for T72
NMRL fuel cell-based AIP for Submarine
Multi-Agent Robotic System.

Overall, 45 MSME received orders worth 203 crores by the Indian Ministry of Defense. President of India Ramnath Kovind lauded the air show and called India a potential global defense hub and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated all hosts and sponsors of the event. The air base closed the mega event with fighters like the new IAF Rafale, while Air Display Teams like SKAT and Sarang demonstrated their thrilling team maneuvering.