“Defence manufacturing is becoming vibrant in India. With holistic efforts, we are creating a strong ecosystem to ensure self-sufficiency in defence production”, with these remarks, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi unveiled the schedule of Aero India 2021. The show, marked as the country’s biggest event for aerospace and defence industry, is scheduled from 3 to 7 February, 2021 at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bengaluru. In its 13th edition, the show will be organised with overhauled guidelines owing to the pandemic crisis.
Special arrangements to combat Covid-19
In order to provide a Covid free environment for exhibitors and visitors, Ministry of Defence has made special arrangements for this year’s event. As per the guidelines mentioned on Aero India’s website, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance of two meters, screening at the entry etc. are made mandatory for each and every person attending the show. If any person is found with symptoms, he will be directly taken to corona isolation rooms specially created by the Government of Karnataka to provide medical assistance to Covid-19 patients. For foreign visitors and exhibitors, the set of guidelines are different and can be accessed by visiting Aero India’s official website.
Roots of Aero India
The roots of Aero India can be traced right to the year 1993 when it was launched as Avia India and took place between 15th-18th December, 1993 at the very same location in Bengaluru. At the very first effort in 1993, some 21 nations and 138 exhibitors participated, including those from the USA, UK, France, Germany, CIS, Israel, Italy, Singapore and Japan. On static display were 30 aircraft, including the prototype MiG-21-93 (precursor to the MiG-21bison) with the legendary General Designer Academician Rostislav A Belyakov personally on hand.
Moved by the tremendous response from the first edition, Ministry of Defence took charge and decided to organise the air show all by themselves. The second edition of the show was held in December 1996 just three years after the first edition and with new organisers, the show was given a new name ‘Aero India’. Then Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda inaugurated the event around 22 countries took part and 62 aircraft were displayed.
With excessive rains playing spoilsport during Aero India 1996 and 1998, the third edition of Aero India was shifted to the month of February on the advice of the Indian Air Force. Defence Minister George Fernandes inaugurated the five-day event on 7 February, 2001 with over 150 international companies from 17 countries participating at the show.
As time passed by, the show grew bigger with more and more domestic and international companies participating and showcasing their products. Last year’s edition, witnessed participation of 403 exhibitors (238 Indian & 165 foreign) and 61 aircraft on display.
However, it may be possible that the Covid-19 pandemic might cast a pall of gloom on this year’s edition of Aero India. Though the government has carved a strict and stern mandate to curb the infection, but going by the current situation, the odds are not looking in favour of Aero India.