World & Indian History

Asia's Largest Aero India 2023: India's Pursuit To Make India Defence Exporting and Manufacturing Hub - Equipped India With 5th Generation Aircraft

India is one of the world's most strategically important nations in terms of the Indian Ocean and the countries around it. The Indian Ocean is a vital trade route through which 60% of the world's trade is conducted, and it serves as a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. 

To maintain the peaceful passage of trade through the Indian Ocean, India aims to become a defense exporter to nations in need of quality but economically viable weapons. On the other hand, to become a regional superpower and to counter sworn enemies, India requires quality weapons from the world's leading weapon manufacturers. 

By keeping these reasons at center stage, the Indian defense ministry has been conducting an air show since 1993. From 1993 to late 2010, this airshow was a weakling or compulsion for the government of India, but its exposure changed dramatically this year when it won the title of Asia's largest airshow and Aero India became the world's third largest airshow after the United States and Russia. 

It is a 5-day event being held at Bengaluru's Yelahanka air force station base. This event has attracted 98 countries, for a total of 811 exhibitors, of which 701 are from India and 110 are from other countries. 

At this event, Indian exhibitors displayed cutting-edge weapons such as the indigenously built HAL HLFT-42 training aircraft, which will outperform the LCA Tejas and revolutionize the training of aspiring airforce pilots. The aircraft will also be used for other purposes during combat. 

Not only conventional aircraft, but India is also becoming the drone hub of the world by promoting drone technology privately and encouraging private players to export drones to other nations and sell drones to the Indian army, navy, and airforce, for which the Indian government always looks towards Israel and other nations. 

The Indian government is promoting this self-reliant journey of the drone industry by promoting drone programs under the "Make in India" program.  

As a result, the world saw the Tango-Bravo tandem wing drone at the Aero India show, which will be capable of carrying twice the payload of its own weight and will be used for endurance, attack, and surveillance. This drone is being manufactured by a private player in the collaboration with Indian Space Research Institute. The Indian drone industry has the potential to add $23 billion to the Indian economy by 2030. 

Indian government is also promoting LCH Prachand the light combat aircraft, which is a state of art weapon being manufactured by HAL. 

Aside from the Indian weapon system, many foreign manufacturers from the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Sweden, and other countries came to India to display their cutting-edge weapons. 

For the first time in history, the United States and Russia sends fifth-generation fighters to attract the Indian airforce and other personnel. The United States sends its Lockheed Martin F-35, while Russia displays its Su-57E. 

What is the reason behind F-35 and Su-57's arrival in India?  

The main reason is that both manufacturers are attempting to sell their premium aircraft to India because India is one of the world's largest defense equipment buyers, and in recent scenarios, India is looking to acquire state-of-the-art aircraft under the MMRCA 2.0 deal to increase its squadron strength to 42 to counter China and Pakistan's two-way aggression.

Therefore, both aircraft manufacturers are here to show the capability and strength of their respective aircraft. And, USA is also trying to steer away India from Russia to make itself less dependent on Russian weapons in the wake of the recent European scenario. 

But the question is whether India will abandon Russian weapons or India should. If approached rationally and critically, India should not rely solely on only one country's weapon systems. Because that country will exploit the country's moral and economic resources in the way that country believes it can. 

On the other hand, India will never keep all its fruits in one basket. There are numerous examples for which India will never take sides with one country, and India will develop its own weapon systems in the future to replace old technologies and make its own weapon system more efficient.

India's goal in defense manufacturing:  

The goal of India is to transition from a defense importer to a defense exporter. The government has taken various steps to promote defense export, one of which is that the Indian government has set a target of becoming a $5 billion defense exporter nation by 2025; from there, the next goal is to make India a $25 billion defense goods exporting nation by 2030 and the ultimate goal is to make India $100 billion defense goods exporting nation by 2040. 

India's Atmanirbhar Bharat push makes India 4th largest defense exporter in the Indo-Pacific region. The Indian government has recently inaugurated Asia's largest Helicopter manufacturing unit in Karnataka with a capacity of 1000 units in a year. 

This HAL facility will manufacture advanced light helicopters for the navy, army, and air force. This facility will also produce helicopters for civilian purposes also.   

As the world is witnessing Indian defense goods and their quality, therefore, the other leading defense manufacturing nations are offering India cutting-edge weapons that they never consider selling to anyone. 

In this scenario, US defense manufacturers are at the top of the list. If the previous geopolitical environment prevails they would never offer India F-35, F-21 aka. F-16, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and other weapon systems. 

Geopolitics has taken a wild swing and India need those kinds of weapon platform to outperform China in the defense industry as well as in the economy. Therefore, India is considering buying American weapon platforms. In this scenario, the french manufacturers are giving tough competition to American manufacturers. 

The Indian government recently choose to buy Dassault Rafael over F-21 aka. F-16, Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon, and other various aircraft. 

Therefore, the goal of this massive airshow is to demonstrate the strength of the Indian defense industry, attract investment in India through cutting-edge weapons from other manufacturers, and establish India as an MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul/Operation) and manufacturing hub for the defense and civil aviation industries.