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Aero India concludes with marketing blitzkrieg, aerial theatrics

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BANGALORE (PTI): It was a blend of marketing blitzkrieg and aerial theatrics that capped the five-day Aero India show, touted as one of the biggest events showcasing the multi-crore opportunity of India's fast growing defence market and the fierce competition among global defence majors to woo India.

The concluding day here was marked by flagging off of India's old refurbished warhorse, Pushpak on a 11,000 km expedition.

The World War-I unarmed aircraft, Pushpak, took off on a 30-day expedition, to commemorate the silver jubilee year of the Army Aviation Corps.

The aircraft, which served in the 1965 and 1971 wars, would visit all the erstwhile Air Observation bases.

The huge civilian turnout Sunday was also greeted to some stunning mid-air manoeuvres by both Indian and foreign military aircraft.

Aerial displays by homegrown Tejas, Indian aerobatic team, Surya Kiran, the Indian helicopter team, Sarang enthralled several. The Czech-based team Sunday left several gaping as the Flying Bulls presented their complex manoeuvres.

Military state-of-the-art aircraft from Sweden, France, US Europe and Russia also displayed their prowess mid-air.

The aero show received both national and international attention, with the participation of nearly 75,000 business visitors this year as against 50,000 in the previous event, according to CII officials.

In all nearly two lakh visitors made it to the aero show which witnessed some fierce competition with major international aerospace players bidding for the $ 10 billion medium multi-role combat aircraft contract in India, which is expected to be finalised next year.

Over 600 exhibitors from across the country and the world showcased their components and technology at the event.

"There have been some serious enquiries", a CII official said but refused to divulge details.

The highlight of the event was handing over of 'Cheetah' to Namibia and signing of Joint Venture between L & T and Cassidian.

Global defence majors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Swedish Saab, European Eurofighters, French Dassault, launched aggressive marketing blitzkrieg, with the aim of winning the MMRCA deal.

Union Minister A K Antony's statement that the deal would be decided next year, turned the voltage of the competition several decibels higher, with all defence majors trying to garner maximum media mileage.

The show was sprinkled with both aerial and on-ground theatrics. Many of the defence majors roped in celebrities to highlight the state-of-art technology and the fighting prowess of their products.

While Boeing roped in industrialist-captain Ratan Tata to fly the Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin roped in US ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer to fly the combat aircraft. MP Jindal was roped in to fly the French Rafael.

But it was Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor who stole the limelight, when he decided to tame the F-16, as part of a promotional campaign for his forthcoming film "Mausam".

There was also ample star power at the show with cricketers, Rahul Dravid, M S Dhoni, actors Gul Panag and Dino Morea making their presence felt at the show.

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