BANGALORE: In line with their ambitions of gaining a share in arguably the world’s largest market for defence products, big foreign firms are backing the government’s Make-in-India and Atmanirbhar Bharat initiatives ahead of the 13th edition of Aero India.

From US’ Boeing and Lockheed Martin to French Dassault, Airbus and UK’s BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, apart from a host of Russian and Israeli firms, the air show will see participation of some of the world’s largest defence and aerospace companies. Firms from 13 countries, including Ukraine, Taiwan, Japan, Austria, Belarus and Bulgaria, will take part.

However, compared to Aero India 2019, foreign participation in this year’s edition has seen a drop of at least 53% as of January 28. Compared to 165 foreign firms in 2019, Aero India 2021 has 78 as on date. Last week, Air Commodore Shailender Sood, air officer commanding (AOC), Air Force Station Yelahanka, had said foreign firms will be allowed to register till the month-end, but this is unlikely to change much in terms of numbers.

William Blair, vice-president and chief executive, Lockheed Martin India, said: “Aligned with the Indian government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and Make-in-India initiative, we look forward to reinforcing our commitment to supporting the growth of an indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem while continuing to deliver our best capabilities to support the Indian MoD and services.”

Blair added the firm sees tremendous strength and opportunity in India’s defence industry — both public and private —including start-ups and MSMEs.

Rolls-Royce, “reaffirming its India commitment,” said it would, among other things, also showcase the MT30 marine gas turbine to propel future-ready naval defence forces. Kishore Jayaraman, president, Rolls-Royce India & South Asia, said: “The firm has been a strong partner in the mission readiness of India’s defence forces for over eight decades. Aero India will be a key platform to explore opportunities to further collaborate, co-create and co-manufacture in India with a view to support and enable the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat vision.”

MBDA, the maker of Rafale’s weapons, is showcasing its Make-in-India commitments by exhibiting a full range of missiles and missile systems designed to provide next-generation air combat capabilities, including air dominance, strike and maritime engagement, for the Indian Air Force.

It will have a display wall of missile system components made in India by the company’s large Indian industrial ecosystem, while Airbus will showcase cutting-edge innovative products along with its customer services and training capabilities.

A section will be dedicated to highlight the company’s strategic local industrial partnerships focused on developing a sustainable aerospace ecosystem in India, Airbus said. Rémi Maillard, president and managing director, Airbus India & South Asia, added: “Airbus’ participation reaffirms commitment to the rapid modernisation and indigenisation of the Indian aerospace and defence sector.”

Emmanuel de Roquefeuil, vice-president and country director, Thales in India, said: “Driven by the purpose to build a future everyone can trust, we remain resolute in our commitment to the Make-in-India vision. We’ve been proudly supporting modernisation efforts of the Indian armed forces and helping them prepare, achieve and maintain tactical superiority over any form of threat.”