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 Kurfürstendamm
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.