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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 13:02 GMT
Massive turnout at India air show
Indian air force aircrafts perform during a preview of the air show in Bangalore
The Indian Air Force's aerobatics squadron were on display
Some 500 aircraft companies from around the world have flocked to an air show in southern India hoping to cash in on the country's booming aviation sector.

The five-day event at the Yelahanka air base in Bangalore will showcase a range of new civilian and military aircraft.

India plans to buy 126 fighter jets for its air force to replace its fleet of ageing Soviet-era MiG-21s.

Industry estimates suggest India will need more than 1,000 planes over the next two decades as air travel booms.

Air traffic in India could double by 2010 to 50 million passenger journeys a year on the back of a growing economy, according to one estimate.

'Decision soon'

Some 45 foreign delegations and 35 air force chiefs from various countries are attending the five-day air show.

India is being viewed by the US as a major link in the global supply chain
Ron Somers,
USINDIA Business Council

Indian Defence Minister AK Antony, who officially opened Aero India, said a decision on the purchase of the fighter jets would be made very soon.

"It [the request for proposals] is almost in the final stage... I can assure that a decision in this regard will be taken very quickly," he told reporters.

The BBC's Habib Beary in Bangalore says the deal is estimated to be worth more than $10bn.

He says the race is primarily between Lockheed Martin's F-16s, the Gripen made by Sweden's Saab, Russia's MiG-35, the Eurofighter from Europe and the Rafale made by French company Dassault.

Hundreds of civilian aircraft and fighter jets will be displayed during the air show, which is being attended by more international visitors than ever before.

More than 50 US firms are among companies present.

Ron Somers, president of the USINDIA Business Council, said it was no longer about the US selling equipment to India.

"What is important is that India is being viewed by the US as a major link in the global supply chain, which will create thousands of jobs," he told the AFP news agency.

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