Aero India 2011

Bangalore / Yelahanka

12 Febrauary 2011




The line-up of commercially oriented aviation trade shows has been growing during the last few decades. The times that the aviation business'only major events were at Farnborough and Paris-Le Bourget has long since passed. Rising Asian nations now stage their own exhibitions, India being no exception. This year's Aero India was again held at Yelahanka Air Force Station just outside of Bangalore or should one write Bengaluru nowadays. Aero India 2011's theme was the upcoming selection of the MMRCA or Medium weight Multi Role Combat Aircraft. This new type would replace attak aircraft like the Jaguar and MiG.27 currently serving the IAF. Apart from the foreign types, Aeo India did also provide a chance to watch several Indian Air Force types currently in use. These included the long-delayed HAL Tejas LCA Light Combat Aircraft seen below left that is now finally entering service as an indigeneous MiG.21 replacement. Russian supplied aircraft are still being delivered however in the shape of license-built Sukhoi Su.30MKI's seen below centre. Another example of India's increasing prowess is the HAL HJT-32 Sitara IJT (Intermediate Jet Trainer) seen below right. The latter will replace the HAL HJT-16 Kiran jet trainer. 

Before and after the air show, a great number of VIP's had to be flown in or out, requiring the services of many transport planes. India's transport force is as varied as its fighter fleet, with Ukranian Antonov An.32B's flying alongside British BAe.748's known as Avro's with the IAF due to the type's Avro pedigree. The long range transport requirements are being handled by Russian supplied Ilyushin Il.76MD's.

Helicopter technology is another field in which HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) has been trying to be succesful. The first Indian designed helicopter can be seen below left, the HAL Dhruv. A light utility type that now replaces such types as the HAL Cheetah (license built Alouette II) and HAL Chetak (license built Alouette III). The latter can be seen below centre. Apart from these, the Indian Air Force operates a fair number of Russian built Mil Mi.8's like the Mi.8T seen below right. 

The MMRCA competition brought five out of six contenders to Yelahanka. These included the Eurofighter Typhoon represented by this Italian Air Force 4°Stormo machine, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet represented by of course a U.S. Navy example. Furthermore the Dassault Rafale flown by the French Air Force's EC 3/30 "Lorraine" from Al Dhafra, United Arab Emirates could be seen alongside a Swedish Air Force JAS-39C Gripen from Lulea's F21 wing and a pair of F-16 versions. The official demo, if it can be called that as it only consisted of a few fly-by's was performed by a 14 FS F-16C from Misawa AB, Japan. The version on offer to india however is the F-16E/F Block 60 based F-16IN. The latter was being represented by a pair of UAE Air Force F-16F's from the Shaheen Squadron. Missing in this line-up was the Mikoyan MiG.35, maybe that should tell something about the outcome of the MMRCA competition.

A major attraction at every show are the demo teams and Yelahanka hosted both teams the IAF has. The Dhruv has found its way into a formation demonstration team especially created for this type. This team is known as Sarang which translates into "peacock". The team flies four of these helicopters, unfortunately one of their number was apparantly unservicable on the day.

Then there was the Surya Kiran jet team with their HAL HJT-16 Kirans. The Surya Kiran flew their last dispaly on the Kiran during Aero India. The team will disband and reform in a few years time on the BAE Systems Hawk Mk.132. Following a few seasons on the Hawk, plans are to re-equip the team again with the HAL HJT-36 Sitara. 

As the IAF do not stage many public displays at its bases, Aero India provided a welcome glimpse on the air force of this rising giant, India.

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink