Indian Air Force helicopters do an aerobatic flight Feb. 6 at the opening of the Aero India 2013 show in Bangalore, India. (Vivek Raghuvanshi / Staff)
BANGALORE, India — The economic slowdown will force India to tighten its belt on defense spending, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony indicated while inaugurating the Aero India 2013 air show at Bangalore, but he added there will be no cuts to priority programs.
India spends about $38.6 billion annually on defense compared with around $91 billion spent by neighboring China, and further reductions could increase the gap in defense capabilities, an Indian Air Force official said.
No announcement will be made at the show, the ninth Aero India, on the finalization of the $11 billion Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program, Antony said, as there are at least six more stages left in the negotiations with Dassault over procurement of the Rafale fighter. While Antony did not provide details about these stages, he said that after the negotiations, the matter will go to the Finance Ministry and then the Cabinet Committee of Security.
But Antony added, “there will be no delay from our side.”
No executive of Dassault would comment on Antony’s comments about the MMRCA.
Antony also ended speculation about a possible role for overseas aerospace manufacturers in MMRCA production, saying state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. would be the production agency.
At Aero India 2011, Antony had announced that the MMRCA would be completed in the next financial year, which runs from April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013.
Antony said further fine-tuning was necessary in India’s procurement process and added that “India believes in buying technology and that technology transfer is a must.”
Earlier, a flight display featured the French Rafale. Flight displays also included the homemade Light Combat Aircraft, the British Hawk Jet trainer, which India has contracted, the Russian made Sukhoi and the homemade Advanced Light Helicopter.
The star attraction of the show was the U.S. C-17 Globemaster, which the Indian Air Force is buying for $4.1 billion. The first of the 10 C-17s is expected to be delivered by June.
The Russian Knights, the aerobatic team of the Russian Air Force with their Sukhoi-27 aircraft, also demonstrated their skills. The other overseas demonstration included the European aerobatic team called the Flying Bulls.