Saturday, July 13, 2024

Farnborough Air Show 2022 – Opportunities For The World & India

By Kamal Shah

The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) resumed after four long years, returning from its pandemic-induced hiatus to once again bring together a global audience. A part of a group of close to 100,000 attendees, IA&D’s Editorial Director Kamal Shah marked his presence at the New Hampshire Airport, the venue of the second largest airshow in the world, over 18-22 July.

Following a decision made in 2019, the airshow was reduced to a five-day event, opening to the public only on the last day (Friday). The development was a reflection of the increasing hardships in attracting non-trade visitors that the FIA has faced over the past few editions. Aerobatic manoeuvres by aircraft being largely restricted for safety reasons, the dynamic displays only comprised flypasts. Nevertheless, the presence of multiple major industry players and numerous delegates across the civilian and defence aerospace spectrum for the characteristic “in-person” networking made the airshow count as a successful event. 

Air India & Jet Airways 2.0 Disappoint

The civil aviation sector was adversely impacted by the onset of the lockdown following the spread of the pandemic and by the spillover from the global grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft on account of two deadly accidents that claimed hundreds of lives. The eagerness of this section of the industry to recover from these heavy blows was quite visible at Farnborough. Throughout this edition, I saw interrelated issues such as supply chain disruptions, soaring inflation, high fuel costs, and the rising pressure to lower carbon emissions.

In a strong blow to Indian industry’s anticipation, no major Indian deals were announced at the airshow. Air India’s $50 billion order for new aircraft, which was expected to disrupt a comparatively silent Farnborough for the country, did not completely finalise by the time of the event. Both Airbus and Boeing, who are likely to be a part of this deal, refrained from making any comments about the high-stakes order. Word in the market suggests that Air India could be looking for an estimated 70 widebody planes, and 300 narrowbody ones. Some have suggested that Boeing CEO’s visit to India a week prior to the FIA might be a sign of imminent good news.

Yet another Indian deal raised industry hopes only to leave them hanging: the Jet Airways’ awaited procurement of 50 Airbus A220s for an undisclosed amount. While the airline said that they are in an advanced stage of discussions, Airbus refrained from commenting on the same. 

Industry Titans Leading Recovery 

Although the two aerospace giants did not reveal any Indian civil aviation customers in their kitty, they did have quite a few other clients and deals to their name. Airbus bagged an order for supplying 56 A320neo family aircraft to easyJet. This deal is a part of easyJet’s fleet renewal, cost, and sustainability enhancements. In addition, the company received orders for 56 and 17 aircraft from Delta Airlines and LATAM airlines, respectively. Furthermore, Christian Scherer, Head of Sales of Airbus, told the attendees about a huge order the company has received from China, referring to the deal for acquisition of a cumulative of 292 A320 family aircraft placed by four Chinese airlines. The order amounts to $37 billion. Scherer also told us that Airbus had received 500 orders since the start of this year, excluding the order from China.

Airbus’ feats no bar, Boeing remained the star of the show. At the FIA, the world’s largest aerospace company announced new firm orders for five B-787 Dreamliners and 167 MAXs. Estimates put the worth of these orders at close to $9.6 billion after standard industry discounts. The most crucial offer Boeing received was for 100 MAX 10s from Delta Air Lines on the first day of the airshow. AerCap, the largest aircraft leasing company in the world, placed a firm order for five 787-9s, while Azerbaijan Airlines stamped a letter of intent for four 787-8s. Japan’s All Nippon Airways became the first 737-MAX customer from the country after it sealed the deal for acquiring 20 737-MAX 8s. ANA also inked a pact to convert two previous 777-9 passenger aircraft orders into 777-8F cargo aircraft. Europe’s premier all-cargo airline Cargolux indicated it would buy the 777X freighter, but did not announce any order at the show. 

Qatar Airways, the state-owned flag carrier of Qatar, also finalised an order for 25 Boeing 737 MAX that are expected to provide the airline’s short- and medium-haul fleet with improved economics, fuel efficiency, and sustainable operations. Additionally, VietJet reiterated its commitment to its older order for 200 737 MAX aircraft. 

Gulfstream’s largest and newest business plane- the G800- also made an appearance at the show. One could notice quite a buzz in the market about this aircraft, priced at $72.5 million apiece. 

eVTOLs Are A Major Draw

The popularity of electric vertical take-off and landing craft (eVTOLs)- of the flying car fame- was hard to ignore. Several companies had displayed their eVTOL prototypes. The mock-up of the Eve air taxi cabin from Embraer, which is expected to start flying in 2026, was introduced to the public for the first time. UK-based Vertical Aerospace had a full-scale mockup of its VX-4, which will conduct a hover test later this year. This is a part of the plans to schedule full flight tests as early as 2024. German aerospace company Lilium presented a six-passenger, one-pilot interior of its eVTOL. Overair, who recently concluded the full-scale flight trials of its piloted, six-seater urban ridesharing aircraft Butterfly’s propulsion system, put the propeller on display. In Exhibit Hall 1, Supernal revealed its cabin concept for Advanced Air Mobility. It was unfortunate that Boeing’s “Wisk Aero,” the only “flyable” eVTOL, was unavailable for flight.

Fighter Jet Announcements Stun!

The pervasive impact that the conflict in Ukraine had on the defence aerospace industry was impossible to miss. The sector had a profound presence at the event. Their end of the show was a vibrant mix of displaying powerful abilities of products on the one hand, and touting innovation and cooperation for compressing time schedules on the other. The defence spectrum of the FIA was lively, with big announcements every single day.

On the opening day of the FIA, Ben Wallace, UK Secretary of State for Defence, and senior Team Tempest representatives from the Ministry of Defence, alongside primary industry partners BAE Systems, Leonardo, Rolls-Royce, and MBDA, declared the launch of the flight demonstrator phase of the Tempest future fighter. A supersonic manned flying demonstrator can be expected to make an appearance in the next five years. It was also announced that the digital design models for the Tempest have flown hundreds of hours in the virtual environment. With this project, the UK is aiming to jump from developing fourth generation fighters to sixth generation ones. Voices at the show suggested that it might be prudent to look out for upcoming Japan-UK collaboration.

The Turkey pavilion reflected the country’s thriving aerospace industry. Among the products on display, I observed UAVs, helicopters, military trainers, and Turkey’s flagship combat aircraft project, the Turkish Fighter Experimental (TF-X). The latter, a fifth-generation, twin-engine stealth fighter, is expected to replace the Turkish Air Force’s F-16s. Turkish Aerospace (TA) is en route to deliver simultaneous milestones for TF-X and the Hürjet advanced jet trainer aircraft. The firm told those present that 18th March 2023 and 2025 are the dates to keep an eye out for.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) followed this trend of ambitious plans for fighter aircraft. It unveiled a new plan to sell 1,000 FA-50 aircraft within 10 years. The FA-50 is a modified version of KAI’s T-50 supersonic trainer jet that was created in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and used some of its technologies. Exporting 1,000 of these fighters would reel in close to $30.5 billion in sales, not to mention the $74.5 billion market for follow-up logistics support. KAI has been eyeing the US’ plan to procure 500 advanced tactical trainers for its Air force and Navy in the upcoming years.

BAE Systems and Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer also made an announcement, telling those of us there that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue a potential agreement with Saudi Arabia for Embraer’s C-390 tactical airlift twin jet. The stated goal of the MoU is to form a partnership to work together in the Middle East and other markets.

Interesting announcements regarding developments for fighter jets also came from Airbus and Boeing. On the second day of the event, the former announced that its A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport has become the first tanker certified to conduct automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R). That same day, Boeing said that the Air Force’s newest refuelling tanker, the company’s KC-46A Pegasus has displayed autonomous boom aerial refuelling capability during flight tests. 

Notably, Lockheed Martin’s LMXT aerial refuelling tanker, which is seeking to compete with Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus for a spot in the US Air Force’s (USAF) potential KC-Y acquisition, is a variant of the A330.

Aerial Weapons Rule The Roost

The aerial weapons section was also buzzing with activity around the same time. On 18th July, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence confirmed its intention to purchase Raytheon Technologies’ StormBreaker smart bomb from the USAF. The bomb, which will enhance capability against stationary and moving targets at stand-off ranges, was designed to be “space-efficient” for the F-35′s bomb bay. Consequently, the fighter can carry four of these in each bay, with sufficient space for other weapons.

Another important development in the aerial weapons arena took place at the airshow. Rolls-Royce and Safran signed an assessment phase contract with MBDA- the lead developer of the Franco-British Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) program. The power units of both these OEMs are partnering to build an engine for the subsonic cruise missile element of the FC/ASW.

When it comes to missiles, though, I can not miss out the brand-new long-range projectile that Rafael formally unveiled at the FIA– the Ice Breaker. Described as a “5th generation” air-launched weapon, this missile has a 300 km range, comes equipped with an IR seeker, and is effective against both land and sea targets. The weapon employs AI for automatic target acquisition and recognition. Additionally, it features man-in-the-loop controls and in-flight abort options. The system is already used by C-17 squadrons in Kuwait, the UK, Australia, and Canada. Two USAF trials are currently being conducted. Boeing has noted that the same systems can be swiftly installed on the new E-7 and AH-64E Apache fleets if necessary.

IA&D Editorial Director Kamal Shah with Boeing India President, Salil Gupte & Vice President, International Sales & Strategic Partnerships, Maria Laine; Staff Photographer 

India-Centric Stand

To the pleasure of many, Boeing leaders spoke extensively about their business with India. The company highlighted how they have been the Indian aerospace sector’s trusted partner for over 75 years. Speaking about how the company acts as a growth partner to India’s promising aerospace & defence sector and human resource capabilities, the Boeing India President Salil Gupte said, “our investments in India are creating jobs and bolstering India’s manufacturing sector. We have, through the years, invested in partnerships with players in the Indian aerospace ecosystem in diverse areas, including skilling, research & technology, and manufacturing.”

Heidi Grant, President, Business Development, Defense, Space & Security, Global Services, said that Boeing remains committed to supporting its customers on existing defence programs such as C-17, P-8I, AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook and Harpoons and also to having conversations about future capabilities and requirements for the Indian armed forces.

Randy Rotte, Senior Director, India, Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia spoke about air refuelling tankers in the context of India. “We see the tankers as a capability of interest for India. India has air refuelling requirements, and we hope that India will be one of those countries that seriously consider Boeing’s tanker solutions,” he said.

The FIA was home to multiple intriguing and exciting announcements, discussions, and displays for both the civilian and defence aerospace sectors. Although Indian players’ role in this edition was quite toned down, there were still a lot of observations and insights for the industry’s attendees to take home.


General Upendra Dwivedi Assumes The Position Of Chief Of The Army Staff

General Upendra Dwivedi, PVSM, AVSM, assumes the position of the 30th Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), succeeding General Manoj Pande, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC, who retired after serving the nation for almost forty years on June 30, 2024.
30.1 ° C
30.1 °
30.1 °
84 %
75 %
35 °
40 °
40 °
39 °
39 °