At the Farnborough International Airshow 2006, cutting edge military aircraft stunned crowds with breathtaking manoeuvres in the air. And behind the scenes, aerospace biggies tried to outmanouevre each other and bag the roughly $7 billion contract being dangled by big buyer India.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is shopping for 126 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) --- a deal that could boost international revenues of many a firm. RSK MiG officials, for example, stressed how important the MRCA fighter tender was to the company's future.
RSK's piece de resistance for the show, which ended outside London on July 23, was the MiG-29M OVT--- the basis for the MiG-35's design---- which the Russians claim is miles ahead technologically. The MiG-35 is among the main contenders for India's MRCA fighter tender along with Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin's F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dassault's Rafale, Saab's JAS 39C/D Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Farnborough crowd also witnessed the first public display of the Typhoon--- a worthy competitor in the MRCA stakes with a complete multi-role warload. The fighter carried six 445-kg Paveway II laser-guided bombs, four AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and a pair of Sidewinders. Despite the load, the Typhoon impressed with its spectacular performance and agility.
US aeronautic giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin are, however, betting on blooming Indo-US ties and technological superiority to swing things in their favour, even as the Russians count on their status as India's traditional arms partners to checkmate the Americans.
Against the backdrop of the quantum jump in Indo-US defence cooperation, another American firm -- Raytheon Systems Limited -- offered its Airborne Standoff Radar (ASTOR) system to India for long-range battlefield surveillance. In a deal worth $1.2 billion, the radar system has just been supplied to the UK Ministry of Defence. The Sentinel R1 aircraft forms the heart of the ASTOR platform, which uses an active electronically scanned array radar for relaying precise imagery to ground stations for optimal mission support.
The debut of Bell Boeing's MV-22 added to the thunder of the proceedings.