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Strategic Partners policy absent from Aero India's opening day

February 14, 2017 (Photo Credit: Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images)
BANGALORE, India — Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar did not announce at the inaugural of Aero India 2017 the much awaited Strategic Partners policy meant to boost business for the domestic private sector, even as he said there would be a greater push for domestic production of weapons and equipment.

"Delay in SP policy will affect defense projects worth over $30 billion," according to a European aerospace company executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Addressing the media Tuesday about the policy's status, Parrikar said: "We are very close to the end. Sometimes, I feel that its like when you load some program, it goes very fast to 95 percent and the last 5 percent takes more time."

"There is a requirement of 300 to 400 fighters and 800 to 1000 helicopters and a requirement of 5,000 aero engines over the next several years," he said of the domestic aerospace market's potential.

Defense projects attached to the pending SP policy include a $12 billion deal for air-independent propulsion-enabled submarines for the Indian Navy; a single-engine fighter jet project worth more than $12 billion; and a naval utility helicopter acquisition worth $3 billion.

While announcing the Defence Procurement Procedure, or DPP, in March 2016, the Ministry of Defence said a chapter on SP policy will be added to the DPP. However, the SP policy is still in the discussion stage despite it first being mooted by the Dhirendra Singh Committee back in July 2015.

Gripen Aero India 2017
A Saab JAS 39 Gripen takes off during an aerial display over Yelahanka Air Force Station on the inaugural day of the 11th edition of Aero India, a biennial air show and aviation exhibition, in Bangalore on Feb. 14, 2017.
Photo Credit: Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

Parrikar said that efforts will be made to support greater capacities in local design and that foreign companies will be encouraged to invest.

An executive of a domestic defense major however, said," The efforts of the government should reflect on the ground as well."

Earlier, the 11th biennial international aerospace and defense exhibition unfurled at Air Force Station Yelahanka in Bangalore, with 549 domestic and overseas companies from 51 countries attending to tap India's defense market, which is estimated to be worth about $150 billion in the next 10 years.

Seventy-two aircraft are on display by domestic and overseas companies. Among these is the French Rafale fighter jet — 36 of which were ordered for the Indian Air Force in November 2016 for $8.7 billion.

Three Rafale fighters were part of a flyover here.

Rafale Aero India
A French Rafale fighter aircraft from Dassault Aviation built for the India Air Force performs maneuvers during an aerial display over the skies of Yelahanka Air Force Station during Aero India 2017 in Bangalore on Feb. 14, 2017.
Photo Credit: Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

Other highlights at the show include Lockheed Martin's F-16 and Saab's Gripen E. Both are being closely watched as they are the front-runners for the Air Force's proposal to replace its aging MiG-21 fighter fleet.

The maritime variant of the Gripen fighter is also here to compete for the Indian Navy's acquisition of 57 fighter jets — a deal worth $15 billion.

The future of India's aerospace market will be guided by the Make in India policy, which will promote co-production of a variety of aircraft among Indian businesses.

However, the executive of the European company said the "prospect of India's Make in India policy hinges on how effectively and quickly can the government announce the SP policy and give big-ticket orders to the private companies."

The highlight from the domestic front was the homemade light combat aircraft and the induction of the first homemade airborne early warning and control system into the Air Force.

The Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKI and the British Hawk Mk132 trainer were also prominent at the show.
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