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Feb 11, 2009 at 01:54pm IST

India's aero show takes off with a roar

Bangalore: Aero India 2009 took off to a roaring start Wednesday with India flaunting its air power in a stunning aerobatics display by fighter jets, helicopters and jet trainers.

Billed as the biggest biennial event in South Asia, the five-day seventh edition of Aero India 2009 began on a sunny and breezy day from the Indian Air Force (IAF) station at Yelahanka, about 20 km from Bangalore.

With a security blanket in place to ward off terror attacks, about 5,000 people, including diplomats and air chiefs from the world over, were treated to a two-hour spectacular show by scores of IAF pilots.

BREAKING BARRIERS: It was a stunning aerobatics display by fighter jets, helicopters and jet trainers.

The inaugural by Defence Minister AK Antony in the presence of Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa was marked by a flypast and breathtaking manouveres from IAF's assorted aircraft -- Sukhoi-30MKI, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG-21, supersonic jet trainer Hawk and subsonic trainer Kiran and a slew of helicopters.

Four indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) of the state-run Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) scrambled over the gathering, while a IAF fleet of Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) aerobatic team christened Sarang kept spirits soaring high.

IAF's transport behemoths and air-to-air refuelling aircraft had the spectators in awe with their sheer size and functionality mid-air.

"Growing in stature, size and public participation, the air show has emerged as the most important event in South Asia, drawing global attention," Defence Secretary (production) Pradeep Kumar said in his introductory remarks.

With 25 countries participating and 50 official delegations, including many led by their defence ministers and air chiefs, the Indian version of the air show has come of an age to turn into a war theatre for the world's major aerospace firms and a global consortium.

A total of 592 firms, including 303 from overseas and 289 from the Indian subcontinent, are showcasing their products and technologies spanning military and civilian sectors to woo the country's three armed services and the burgeoning aviation industry.

The Indian government is set to invest a whopping Rs.1.4 trillion ($30 billion) over the next five years to modernise and upgrade its defence services.

The IAF order to induct 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) into its depleting fleet as a replacement to the aging MiG-21 old warhorse has made the six global aerospace bidders vie for the estimated $10 billion (Rs 500 billion) contract by flying in their metal birds to show their strike power.

A dozen global aerospace firms, including the state-run HAL, as well as US and German air forces have flown in their fighter jets, transport planes, a fleet of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles for flying and static displays at the event.

Among them are the American Lockheed Martin with its strike fighter F-16, Boeing with its F-18 Super Hornet, Russian MiG with MiG-35, European consortium with Eurofighter (Typhoon) and HAL/IAF with Sukhoi, Hawk, Intermediate Jet (IJT) and Dhruv.

Spanning an area of 44,000 square metres as against 30,000 sq m in 2007, the exhibition area has five international pavilions hosting Australia, Belgium, Germany, Israel and Romania, 54 chalets and about 600 stalls to house international and Indian firms and a host of facilities forming the eco-system.

With the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) riding high on the successful launch of India's maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 to the moon, a space pavilion is also put up to flag the country's prowess in space technology and space applications.

"We are expecting about 125,000 visitors, including 50,000 business delegates and about 75,000 people from across the country, especially Bangalore and Karnataka," Kumar said.

To provide foolproof security and prevent any untoward incident, the venue has been turned into a fortress, with three-tier protective layer, 140 closed circuit television (CCTV), three x-ray machines, radio frequency identification (RFID), 330 defence service corps, 180 air force police personnel as well as platoons of the Central Industrial Security Force and special commando forces.

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