ILA-2008 which opened yesterday (May 27, 2008) at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, is the celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift this year. Almost 90 years ago the Berlin Airshow was launched, paving the way for the post world-war I recovery of the German aviation industry. Several vintage aircraft participating in the flight and static displays here provided the historical background for ILA. These included of the “Candy Bombers”, a DC-3, which brought some 80 veterans of the Airlift from the USA and the UK, the Messerschmitt Bf-109G-10 and Me-262. A C-17 named the “Spirit of Berlin”
was also on display to commemorate the Berlin Airlift of 1948.
Held for the first time in 1909 as the Internationale Luftfahrt-Ausstellung (ILA) – International Aviation Exhibition – in Frankfurt am Main, this traditional event has a history that goes back 99 years. Between 1912 and 1928 this air show fascinated visitors in Berlin, and after the Second World War it moved to Hannover-Langenhagen Airport, where it remained for more than 30 years. Following an absence of 64 years, in 1992 the ILA returned to its original venue in Berlin/Brandenburg, attracting much attention as it resumed its place among the world’s major trade fairs in this sector.
This year’s exhibition attracted some 1,127 exhibitors from 37 countries, occupying an area of a quarter of million square meters. Over 300 aircraft are participating in ILA 2008. These include commercial and transport aircraft, including the Airbus A380, the largest, most advanced and most environmentally friendly of the world’s commercial aircraft, with a typical capacity of more than 550 passengers. Airbus is also exhibiting its A330, one of the largest and most economical of the world’s long haul, twin-engined airliners. On the military transport side, flying giants on display include two of largest military transport aircraft ever put into mass production – the Russian Antonov An-124 (to perform a flyby on 29 May) and the U.S. built C-5 Galaxy from Lockheed Martin. As mentioned here, the C-17 Globemaster III is also present. The German Air force is displaying one of its A310 MedEvac aircraft, known as the “flying hospital”. One aircraft still missing from the airshow roster is the A-400M military transport built by Airbus Industries’ military division. The aircraft is expected to be rolled out officially by late June, and is bound to be an attractive participant in all future airshows.
India was invited by the show organizers to participate as a ‘partner country’. India’s largest aerospace manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics is participating at the show and the Indian “Sarang” helicopter flight demonstration team, will be performing its stunning aerobatics during the daily flight displays flying their peacock colored Dhruv helicopters.
As always, ILA maintains relatively ‘low key’ on military affairs, but all branches of the German armed forces are present here with representative aircraft and helicopters, including one of the German Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons, and Panavia Tornado strike fighters and the NH-90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH), the Bundeswehr’s new multi-role transport, and the Tiger UHT – both from Eurocopter. Other helicopters on display include the Russian Mil Mi-24 operated by the Hungarian Armed Force, a Boeing CH-47 Chinook operated by the UK Royal Air Force, and and a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) version of the Eurocopter EC 725 operated by the French Air Force. This updated and more powerful five-bladed version of the Cougar medium transport helicopter is being offered especially for CSAR missions as an alternative to the NH 90.) Leading Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) suppliers at ILA 2008 include EADS, General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Diehl and Rheinmetall. Other UAVs promoted here are the Global Hawk and its European derivative known as Euro Hawk, designed for Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) missions and a high altitude, long endurance (HALE) platform carrying Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) in support of the NATO Alliance
Ground Surveillance (AGS) program.
With 707 weapon systems under contract, Eurofighter Typhoon claims to have the largest order book and series production in the fighter aircraft market. Sofar 146 aircraft have been delivered to five Air Forces and accumulated about 39,000 flying hours in service with five air forces. According to Aloysius Rauen, CEO Eurofighter GmbH, All Tranche 1 aircraft to the core Air Forces have been delivered. The first Tranche 2 Eurofighter Typhoon joined the Test & Evaluation programme earlier in 2008. The proposals for Tranche 3 were delivered on deadline in December 2007 and the authorisation process for the third Tranche is ongoing. Some 40 aircraft from the second Tranche are already in final assembly. Two recently announced export contracts secured Austria and Saudi-Arabia further strengthens the Typhoon’s leadership position. Integration testing of the AMRAAM missile was concluded in February, clearing weapon integration requirement for all Tranch 1 including AIM-9L, ASRAAM, AMRAAM and Iris-T for air-to-air combat, and Paveway II (UK), Enhanced Paveway II, GBU-10 and GBU-16 for air-to-ground tasks. In addition, integration of the Laser Designator Pod is also proceeding. In addition to the recent two export wins, Typhoon is expected to compete for more prospect sales in Europe, most notable of these are in Switzerland, Greece and India.
An older competitor which is still considered a viable competitor in the modern fighter market is the advanced F-16 Viper. Lockheed Martin already produced 4,398 F-16s, with more orders coming through. Two of the countries currently considering the Viper are Morocco and Romania. In India the advanced F-16 is also competing against the Typhoon, as well as other figters, for the coveted order of 126 strike fighters under the Indian Multi-Role Combat Aircraft program. This year the company is scheduled to deliver the last production batches of enhanced Block 52 aircraft to Israel and Poland. Orders for 98 additional fighters were recently received from Greece, Pakistan and Turkey, extending the current production line until 2012. By that time, as the F-35 Lightning II aircraft will enter serial production, Lockheed Martin plans to relocate manufacturing of the F-16 overseas (India has been suggested as a possible candidate for this plan).