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US departs Aero India, leaves stronger relationships behind

BENGALARU, India (AFNS) -- U.S. aircraft, crew and support personnel, as well as members of the State Department and other U.S. representatives returned home this week after a strong showing at Aero India 2017 at Air Force Station Yelahanka, India, Feb. 20.

On the heels of the recently announced major defense partnership between the U.S. and India, the representation of American airpower and the robust senior-level U.S. government delegation present during the show demonstrated the U.S. commitment to India, a growing and pivotal relationship.

The U.S. does not look at Aero India as a tradeshow, but rather as an opportunity to display the growth in the Indian/U.S. defense cooperation relationship, allowing the two nations to work together.

The Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstration team, assigned to Misawa Air Base, Japan, a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft, assigned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida deployed to Kadena AB, Japan, and a U.S. Air Force C-130J Hercules assigned to the 143rd Airlift Wing, Rhode Island Air National Guard, were all on display for the estimated 500,000 people in attendance.

The C-130 and F-16 also participated in the aerial demonstration portion of the show.

The C-130 played an especially pivotal role when it delivered U.S. Air Force members from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, Kadena AB, Japan with special operations paratroopers from the Indian Army’s 2nd Parachute Regiment on two freefall jumps, to the delight of the crowd.

In addition, at the request of the Indian Navy, the U.S. Navy sent a P-8 for display at Aero India, an aircraft both countries operate.

“Displaying our aircraft in the Aero India 2017 air show reaffirms our commitment with the Indian Armed Forces and is a key opportunity to communicate our level of interest in bilateral cooperation” said U.S. Navy Commander Mike Albus, the Executive Officer for Fixed Wing Patrol Squadron 10. “We hope this air show is a steppingstone to further our partnership with India through military-to-military interoperability.”

The sizable crowd was not the only group of people who enjoyed the air show experience.

“Demonstrating the capabilities of the C-130 draws me to participate,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Mike Collins, a RIANG C-130 pilot. “It was enjoyable flying the airdrop profile and displaying the tactical ability of this aircraft. We performed multiple joint force airdrops including joint jumpmaster briefings and daily detailed mission coordination exercises. Working with 2 Para Indian Special Forces at Aero India was flawless in communication and execution and I hold my Indian military counterparts in high regard.”

However, you did not need to be a part of the aerial demonstration to appreciate the show’s significance.

“Our attendance at the Aero India air show has been a life-changing event for many of our Sailors as they step aboard planes they have only read about, as they experience the hospitality of the Indian people, and as they take in the sensationalism of being on this side of the flight line,” Albus said. “We train exclusively for the operational mission, and when our combat air crews have an opportunity to put their skills to the test on a real-life mission, there is nothing more rewarding and energizing. However, I don't think any of them would turn down this opportunity in the future!”

“This show has been extremely enjoyable and fulfilling,” Collins said. “This was the first visit to India for eight of the 11 of us. We were very impressed with the hospitality and gracious efforts of our Indian hosts.”

The P-8 crew was similarly enthused by the experience and the opportunity to share their mission with several Indian distinguished visitors, including the Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Sunil Lanba.

“Our aircrew has enjoyed speaking a common language with our friends and having the opportunity to showcase what we do,” Albus said. “Air shows are a critical component for furthering partnerships through relationships. We enjoyed speaking a common language with our friends and having the opportunity to showcase what we do.”