The Berlin Air Show marks 100th anniversary

Berlin. The USD 10 billion competition for 126 Medium Multi role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) was electrifying the Berlin Air Show, which otherwise marked its 100th anniversary with much fanfare and enthusiasm.

The Germans are credited with many of the aerospace innovations, including the jet engines, but it is the economy which defines a country’s strength now and Germany and its partners in aerospace need global orders. New Delhi is high on their radar, thanks to the fact that India is going to buy 126 medium, multi role aircraft for the first time in a quarter century to replace its very, very old Mig 21s, and eventually the French Mirage 2000 and Mig 29s, the latter also of Soviet vintage.
Germans are spearheading the four-nation campaign to sell their Eurofighter to India. The aircraft was regarded as much higher in cost, compared to the US Lockheed Martin F 16 Super Viper IN and Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet as well as the Swedish Gripen and Russian Mig 35.
 But the Euro has come down, by some 20 per cent, and the aircraft could be competitive in prices if short-listed in field trials against some others. There is an opportunity for all the six competing vendors in fact to renew their commercial bids by the end of June, and if not all, most of the competitors are likely to avail of this.
The incidental reduction in prices has reinvigorated Eurofighter officials.
Said Bernhard Gerwert, Board Chairman of Eurofighter GmbH and an old India hand: We have now more than 50 per cent chance of winning the MMRCA contract as against 10 per cent when we launched the Eurofighter campaign in India in 2007.” He reminded that the four Eurofighter partner nations, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain, had already declared their intent to transfer technology to India to make “India a fifth partner.”
Germans also see an opportunity to sell the A400M military transporter built by Airbus Military to India, which has to phase out its nearly 20 IL 76 and 100 AN 12 aircraft in about 10 years. India is buying 10 C 17 Globemaster-III from the US and there is also a plan to build some 50 smaller Military Transport Aircraft (MTA) with Russia. But given the strategic importance that India is acquiring, it would be a matter of time when the IAF considers the A400M.
The aircraft would be smaller than the C 17 but bigger than both the C130J Hercules – which India has already bought – and the MTA.
There is also the German-built Grob 120TP flight trainer, which is in competition to supply some 100 aircraft to IAF as a replacement for the much-maligned HAL-built HPT 32 which can just fall to the ground literally out of the blue due to engine and fuel supply problems. IAF stopped using that aircraft altogether after some fatal crashes.
 The German Chief of Air Force, Lt Gen Aarne Kreuzinger-Janik, told visiting Indian journalists that the Eurofighter Typhoon was “the best of its class.” He described it as a good and stable platform that never had an accident, pointing out that the German Air Force had recently used the Typhoon for air patrolling in Estonia, the baltic country that shares border with Russia.
He said although the Eurofighter was a relatively new machine, its upgradation plans were already under way.
Some upgrades had been decided keeping in mind the operational experience in Afghanistan. Besides equipping it with close air support systems, it is being fitted with laser-designation pods and new communication suites to talk to ground personnel to avoid friendly fire casualties.
The newer Tranche-3 version of the aircraft would be fitted with the Active Electronically Scanned Radar (AESA) radar, something that the IAF mandates for selection.
Industry sources said that although the Eurofighter did not have the AESA yet, its “working lab model” had been displayed to the IAF team which had visited Germany for some of the tests.
It may be recalled that in Berlin Air Show 2008, India was the partner country and both Defence Minister A K Antony and the IAF Chief of Staff, Air Chief Marshal F H Major, were present. India Startegic had then brought out a Special Report on the event which was formally released by these two dignitaries at the venue.
Berlin is a beautiful, historic city without the Wall that once divided the East and West. It has broad avenues, and in the 19th century, there was an attempt to rival the Parisian Champs Elysees as a fashion street on Kurf├╝rstendamm boulevard.
But Germans have best excelled in engineering. Be it the land, air and sea systems they developed in the last century and now, or the Mercedes, BMW and Audi cars. It is still fun to watch the good old flying machines.
The weather on the opening day, June 8, was nice and the sky was a perfect stage for Airbus Military to showcase the A400M that made a public debut less than six months after its maiden flight. Flown by Airbus Military Chief Test Pilot Ed Strongman, the aircraft showed its easy handling characteristics.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who inaugurated the show, indeed got off to grand start even as it boasted largest participation from 1,153 exhibitors from 47 countries surpassing the 1,127 exhibitors from 37 countries in the 2008 edition.
The vintage aircraft and their flying display was eye candy. Only some of those machines are flying history, and among them was the World War-II famous Messerschmitt Me 109 fighter, flown by pilot Klaus Plasa. If one has watched the World War great films, like the Blue Max and Battle of Britain, the legendary dogfights between Me 109 and Royal Air Force Spitfires would vividly come alive. There was also the world’s first jet engine fighter, a restored Messerschmitt Me-262, which memorably enthralled and inspired the spectators.
Countries that made debut at the air show included Australia, Finland, Mexico, Monaco, Sweden, Singapore, Turkey and Tunisia while USA made its largest presence with approximately 90 military aircrew and support members from its bases in Europe making it to the show.
The American contingent displayed the B-52 Stratofortess, B-1B Lancer, Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster-III, Lockheed Martin’s C-5B Galaxy and C130 J Hercules, and KC135- Stratotanker.


Post a Comment

Disqus Shortname

Comments system