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US-made systems make a strong presence in Aero India

B1 Lancer along with Tejas during the inaugural day of Aero India 2021. (Photo courtesy of Saurav Chordia)
February 05, 2021

The Aero India 2021 Airshow kicked off Wednesday with a grand display of major aircraft participating in the air show. In various eye-catching displays held at Yelahanka Air Base of Indian Air Force’s Southern Command, there was a big moment seeing the U.S. Air Force Strategic Bomber B-1B Lancer appearing in the sky with Tejas.

Lancer was not the only attraction on the first day, and overall the stalls and tarmac were decorated with a diverse range of defense and air platforms resonated with the exhibition of the U.S. presence. Firms like Boeing Defense, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky appeared at Aero India’s vibrant venue.

Over the last decade, the U.S. has emerged as one of India’ largest defense and strategic partners, selling over 20 billion dollars worth of weaponry and aerospace equipment, including offensive and surveillance-based systems. To balance Russia in the race to attract the Indian market, the U.S. has a clear strategy to take this partnership, making India an effective ally in exporting western technologies.

Last week, Boeing sought license clearance to put its latest F-15EX variant into a race of 114 combat aircraft. Boeing sent an important delegation to Aero India, with an enticing display of F-15EX to make a strong mark to stomp out competitors.

Lockheed Martin also presented their F-21 Viper multi-role 4.5 generation fighter, the most advanced derivative of famed F-16 Falcon fighter. The Aero India exhibition has become an essential spot for both U.S. giants. Sikorsky also displayed its MH60R Romeo maritime multimission helicopter, which is supposed to be delivered to the Indian Navy soon.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin have a history of supplying important systems to Indian armed forces. The Boeing-made Apache Combat Helicopter was recently delivered to India with Chinook transport helicopters, while the Indian navy operates a sizable fleet of nine P-8i Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.

Meanwhile, with 11 C-17 strategic airlifters operating in IAF, Lockheed Martin itself sold the C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft to IAF.

The history of U.S. presence in the Indian market has been seen at the Aero India exhibition since it first started in 1996. India traditionally relied on Soviet/Russian systems, but has been steadily shifting its dependency on Western made or domestically made platforms.

Seeing the potential of attracting business at great lengths in the Indian market, Aero India has become a hotspot for United States’ effort. This year, the Indian Ministry of Defense hosted the 13th edition of Aero India, with critical enforced guidelines and restrictions limiting the exhibition event for three days compared to the traditional five days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.