Global aeronautical companies laid out their stalls Wednesday in one of the world's hottest aviation markets, looking for a share of billions of dollars in Indian military and civilian contracts.
Aero India 2011 has drawn 675 firms and around 40 official delegations from 45 countries to the southern city of Bangalore, India's aeronautical capital.
The five-day airshow comes less than a month after Indian budget carrier Indigo agreed a ê15.6-billion order for 180 A320 passenger aircraft with Europe's Airbus Industries.
Airbus rival Boeing Co. was among the heavyweights in a particularly strong US corporate contingent at the air show, which coincided with a visit to India by US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
"We are seeing explosive growth in India's civil aviation sector. India will be requiring more aircraft in the future, and US companies can provide fuel-efficient technologies which would help reduce fares in the country," Locke said in Bangalore on Tuesday.
Seattle-based Boeing Co. predicted Indian airlines could spend ê130 billion dollars in the next two decades on acquisitions.
"We estimate India's annual passenger growth at 15 percent in the next five years will be the highest in the whole world," said Dinesh Keskar, president of Boeing's India subsidiary.
As well as the civilian aviation market, global manufacturers are greedily eyeing a raft of military contracts being offered as part of an ambitious upgrade of the Indian air force.
"Today, India's aerospace sector has emerged as the fastest growing in the world," Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a speech to open the air show.
"We are open to joint ventures, public-private partnerships and licenced production under transfer of technology," Antony said, adding that India's current defence expenditure -- 2.5 percent of GDP -- was "bound to increase over the next two decades".
Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corp. and three other Western firms are all in the running for a ê12 billion deal to sell 126 fighter jets to India. The much-awaited contract could to be finalised in July.
"Defence budgets across the world are flat while in India on the other hand it is growing," remarked Mark Kronenberg, vice president in Boeing's defence unit.
"It (India) is an extremely important destination for us," he said.
Stephen Estill, an executive with Sikorsky said the US-based helicopter-maker was competing for a ê800 million dollar project to sell 16 anti-submarine helicopters to the Indian navy.
Trials are likely to begin in April, he said.
India's military spending grew from ê12 billion dollars in 2000-2001 to nearly ê33 billion dollars in 2010-2011, according to government figures.
International consultancy firm KPMG estimates Delhi will hand out military contracts worth ê112 billion dollars by 2016.
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