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India Airshow Showcases New Jets

Indian air force aircraft perform aerobatic flight at the opening ceremony of Aero India 2011 in Yelahanka air base on the outskirts of Bangalore, India, February 9, 2011.

In the Indian city of Bangalore, major aeronautical companies from around the world are displaying state-of-the art military and commercial jets.

Among the companies participating at the five-day air show in Bangalore are U.S.-based Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and Europe’s Airbus.

Billions at stake

These companies are among six top competitors for an approximately $12 billion contract for 126 fighter planes. India is expected to make a decision on the sought-after deal by March next year.

Defense Minister, A.K. Antony, who opened the air show, says India will raise its defense spending over the next two decades as it upgrades its military hardware. He also called on foreign aviation companies to forge partnerships with local companies.

"We are open to joint ventures, public private partnerships, and licensed production under transfer of technology for the all-round development of aerospace industry. We have charted out a course to increase self-reliance in the defense sector by creating a strong industrial base in the country," Antony said.

Investment offer

Foreign aviation companies say they are ready to raise their level of investment and increase production in India.

India is not a just a big market for military aircraft. As passenger traffic grows by approximately 15 percent a year, domestic airlines are also expanding their fleets.

The huge potential for business has drawn 675 firms and official delegations from 45 countries to the air show. This includes a trade delegation led by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who says he wants to help American companies sell planes and other equipment to India and create jobs in the United States.

Aerospace contracts

American companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are also hoping to benefit from the U.S. government's recent decision to remove nine Indian defense and aerospace companies from a list of restricted entities with which U.S. companies cannot do business.

Boeing says it has begun talks with the Indian Space and Research organization to collaborate on space technology. India’s defense spending has grown three-fold over the past decade from $10 billion to $30 billion. The commercial aviation sector is expected to spend $130 billion over the next 20 years buying new planes.