Bengaluru, Feb 18: The 10th edition of Aero India 2015 got off to a flying start at the Air Force Station Yelahanka in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a blue waistcoat, promised a level-playing field for all in aerospace and defence sector.
The PM was categorical when he said that India will have to soon give up the No 1 position as the world's largest defence importer.
"We have the reputation as the largest importer of defence equipment in the world. That may be music to the ears of some of you here. But, this is one area where we would not like to be No 1," the PM said.
The Prime Minister said that India has to equip itself for the needs of the future, where technology will play a major role." He said India has huge requirements for managing the internal security and that the country is increasingly integrating technology and systems into it.
Saying that Aero India can't be seen just as a trade fair for defence equipment, the PM said that is also a mega meet of one of the largest global supply chains, with the most advanced technology and complex equipment.
DPP getting refined
The PM said that the government is fine-tuning the much-talked about Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).
He said in the new DPP, clear preferences would be given for equipment manufactured in India.
"Our procurement procedures will ensure simplicity, accountability and speedy decision making. The FDI in defence can even go higher than 49 per cent if the project brings state-of-the art technology," the PM said.
He said that the offset policy should not be seen as a means to export low-end products, but to acquire state-of-the art technology and skills in core areas of priority.
"The policy can boost investment, expand manufacturing, support enterprise, raise the technology level and increase economic growth in the country," he said.
DPSUs not doing enough
The Prime Minister continued his critical stand on the working of India's defence industry and said that they should put up a better show.
"The Defence PSUs are not doing enough for the country. Nearly 60 per cent of our defence equipment continues to be imported. Our private defence industry is still small and we are spending tens of billions of dollars on foreign acquisitions. There are studies that show that even a 20 to 25 per cent reduction in imports could directly create an additional 1 lakh to 1.2 lakh highly skilled jobs," the PM said.
"We should work towards increasing the domestic procurement from 40 per cent to 70 per cent in five years and that's why defence is at the heart of our Make in India programme," he added.
Earlier in his welcome address, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that India needs to become self-reliant in aerospace and defence.
"Given the security scenario of our country, it is very important that India becomes self-sufficient in defence and defence production. The Department of Defence Production has taken upon itself to make Prime Minister's clarion call of Make in India in defence production a success," Parrikar said.
LCH display impresses Modi
The day's flying display proceedings were started by the vintage Tiger Moth, followed by home-grown Tejas. The display by Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) from the hangars of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), piloted by Wgd Cdr Unni Pillai (Retd) and Grp Capt Hari Nair (Retd), caught the attention of Modi, who was seen applauding continuously.
Sukhoi (Su-30MKI), the all-time show-stopper, exhibited some spectacular flying capabilities, enthralling the crowd. The Su-30 flew to the theme music of Tom Cruise-starrer Top Gun. The all-helicopter Sarang team of Indian Air Force, now a regular at the Aero India, too did their stunning sky stunts.
The traditional full-fledged fly-past was missing this year. Sources said that the decision to tweak the fly-past was taken on Tuesday evening owing to security reasons. However, a formation of three Mi-8 helicopters did a low fly-past timing with the PM's arrival, trooping the Tricolour, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Aero India flags.
PM shows keen interest on aero engine
Soon after the inauguration, the PM visited HAL stall and showed keen interest in Hindustan Turbo Fan Engine and LCH. HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju explained him about the efforts made by the Company on the Make in India front.
"The Medium thrust class engine finds wide application in military trainer aircraft, smaller regional jet and un-manned applications," Raju said. He also apprised the PM of the design and develop an aero engine with a 25 kN thrust.
Photos: A Veeramani
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)