Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Debutants set to rock the skies

Bengaluru: Aviation aficionados are set to miss the sonic boom of fighter jets as transport aircraft, helicopters, trainers and UAVs (un­ma­­nned air vehicles) will steal the show during ‘Ae­ro India 2013’ commencing at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, on February 6.

Among the flying machines set to debut at the five-day show are the Pilatus PB-7 Mk-II basic trainer of Switzerland and weaponised version of Made-in-India ‘Rudra’ helicopter. A low-cost, long-endurance UAV ‘Sca­n­Eagle’ of Boeing would make its first appearance at the show. Almost all the fighters which performed breath-taking aerobatics at air shows in 2011 and 2009—MiG 35 (Russia), F-16 and F/A-18 Super Hornet (USA), JAS-39 Gripen (Sweden), Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale (France)—will skip this year’s event.

All of them were in the race for the $ 11.5 billion Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract of Indian Air Force (IAF), but will not show up in the latest edition as the IAF picked the Rafale ahead of others in 2011. “There’s no point in displaying our fighter after it was outmaneuvered by the Rafale,” a spokesperson of an American aerospace major told Deccan Chronicle.

Sources in IAF said the Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II basic trainer would fly for the first time over Indian skies at the air show. The IAF has decided to acquire 75 of these trainers produced by Pilatus in Switzerland, followed by an additional 106 to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The first batch of a dozen of these trainers would join the IAF’s fleet next year.

The sources said Boeing’s C-17 Globema­ster heavy-lift military aircraft would top the list of transport aircraft set to fly at the air show. The first of ten such aircraft, which would be acquired by the IAF through a $ 4.1 billion deal, would join the air strike wing’s fleet in June this year. Boeing would deliver five of these transport aircraft this year and the remaining five next year.

The sources said HAL would unveil the weaponized version of ‘Rudra’ advanced light helicopter at the air show. This helicopter employs an integrated architecture display system with multifunction displays for the pilot and has weapons such as a 20mm turreted gun, 70mm rockets and air-to-air missiles.

The sources said the Defence Research and Development Organi­zat­ion (DRDO) would have a significant presence with  many of its laboratories set to display a wide array of aerospace and defence products. Among them, the light combat aircraft ‘Tejas’ would enthrall aviation enthusiasts with aerobatic displays twice every day, preceded by formation flying by three of these fighters at the inaugural session.

The air show would be preceded by an international seminar “Aeros­pace products—challenges in design and development” commencing on February 4.