The Russian MiG-35, one of the six fighter planes competing with American and European rivals for a $10.2 billion (Rs 45,900 crore) Indian Air Force contract, will not be putting in an appearance at Aero India-2011 in Bangalore next week.
Befuddled by the move, the defence ministry is making last-ditch efforts to get the Russians onboard.
RK Singh, secretary (defence production), said on Tuesday, “We don’t know why the MiG-35 is not coming. We want them to participate and have asked our embassy in Moscow to take up the matter.” Russia, however, is among the 45 official delegations expected.
The biennial airshow, to be held from February 9-13, offers international exhibitors a prestigious platform to showcase newest aerospace equipment and technology. More than 675 exhibitors from 60 countries will attend the eighth edition of the airshow, compared to 592 exhibitors from 25 countries in 2009. The exhibitors include 380 Indian firms compared to 303 two years back.
China, Pakistan and Iran have not been invited. Beijing turned down an invite in 2009. Singh said participating countries were short-listed by the ministry of external affairs. Chinese journalists have also been kept out. The US presence will be the biggest with 250 official delegations.
The Russian Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35 is locked in competition with Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Lockheed Martin (F-16 Super Viper), Eurofighter Typhoon (a consortium of British, German, Spanish and Italian companies), Dassault Aviation (Rafale) and Saab (Gripen) to supply 126 fighter planes to the IAF.
Barring MiG-35, the remaining competitors will be flying at the airshow, organised jointly by the defence ministry and Confederation of Indian Industry.
India and Russia signed a $30 billion (Rs 1,35,000 crore) agreement for the joint design and development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) last December. The two sides are also expected to ink a $4.3 billion (Rs 19,350 crore) deal for 42 more Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
The IAF’s newly acquired C-130J Super Hercules airlifters, capable of takeoffs and landings from unprepared runways, will debut at the airshow. The IAF signed a $1 billion (Rs 4,500 crore) contract with US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin for six C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in 2008.
The odd-one out at the airshow will be a Maruti 800 flying car, developed by a Bangalore-based aviation entusiast. Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Singapore, Japan and Afghanistan are among the countries sending official delegations. More than 1,75,000 visitors are expected.