Accelerating Change at Aero India 2021

USAF and DOS representatives at Aero India 2021

Members of the U.S. delegation, comprised of both Department of Defense and Dept. of State representatives, stand ready for the opening ceremony of Aero India 2021 at Yelahanka Air Station in Bengaluru, India, Feb. 3. Among the group is Eighth Air Force leadership, Maj. Gen. Mark Weatherington, 8th Air Force commander (third from right), and Chief Master Sgt. Melvina Smith, 8th Air Force command chief (back center), who represent the U.S. Air Force's bomber force. The B-1 demonstration at the trade show signified a growing partnership between India and the U.S.

A 28BW B-1 flies alongside two Indian Tejas jets

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer conducts aerial manuevers with two Indian Air Force Tejas fighter jets at the Aero India 2021 trade show at Yelahanka Air Station, India, Feb. 5, 2021. Aero India 2021 marks the first time U.S. B-1 bombers have integrated with IAF aircraft. U.S. and Indian governemnt officials and military leaders continue to strengthen relationships and further the two nations' partnership.

B-1 arrives at Bengaluru, India

A 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron crew chief tends to a B-1B as it taxis in at Kempegowda International Airport, India, after more than a 20-hour sortie from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. More than 40 Airmen deployed in support of Aero India 2021 in an effort to strengthen India-US relations.

The 8AF Aero India 2021 team photo

The Eighth Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center command team, Public Affairs and International Affairs teams, arrive at Yelahanka Air Station in Bengaluru, India for Aero India 2021 Feb. 3-5. This year's B-1 demonstration marks the first time a U.S. bomber has landed on Indian soil since October 1945. More than 40 Airmen deployed from Ellsworth and Barksdale Air Force Base with the intention to strengthen military relationship and enhance cooperation with India.

TV interview with USAF aircrew on B-1 participation

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Fessler, the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander who piloted the first B-1 demonstration during Aero India 2021, is interviewed by a Hindi TV reporter in Bengaluru, India, Feb. 4, 2021. Fessler emphasized that the B-1 and Indian Air Force Tejas flight signified the first time the two air forces participated jointly in an exercise together. The bomber force's involvement in Aero India signals a growing movement to enhance the two countries partnership.

USAF and Indian air force officials discuss interoperability during Aero India 2021.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Weatherington, Eighth Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center commander, right, along with other U.S. military delegates, meet with Indian Air Force Air Marshal Vikram Singh, Senior Air Staff Officer, Headquarters Western Air Command, during Aero India 2021 at Yelahanka Air Station, India, Feb. 5, 2021. Indian and U.S. government leaders and military officials held a series of discussion focused on the shared goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Opening flight of Aero Inida 2021.

Indian Air Force helicopters kickoff the beginning of Aero India 2021 Feb. 3, 2021. Representatives from more than 60 counntries and 500 defense industry organizations attended this year's trade show at Yelahanka Air Station in Bengaluru, India.

Welcome to Aero India 2021.

The government of India welcomed more than delegates from more than 40 countries and representatives from more than 500 defense industry companies to Aero India 2021, a three-day trade show at Yelahanka Air Station in Bengaluru, India, Feb. 3-5, 2021.


The Chief of Staff of the Air Force charged us to accelerate change.

I had the pleasure of witnessing our Aero India 2021 bomber team going full afterburner by participating in an event that demonstrated a feat of airpower that had not been accomplished since October 1945. 

In the midst of a global pandemic, the Bomber Task Force performed integrated aerial demonstrations during the largest trade show in Asia, held at Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru, India. For the Indian Air Force, this was the 13th iteration since its inception in 1996. For the United States Air Force, this was the first time a bomber landed on Indian soil in 75 years – a historical moment indeed!

According to XLR8 (Accelerate) by James P. Kotter, accelerating is much more about leadership than mere management. Kotter stresses, the game is about vision, opportunity, agility, inspired action, passion, innovation and celebration. This trip was a testament to a game well played.

More than 40 warfighters, four country stops, a 55-hour round-trip flight, and four COVID tests, Aero India 2021 was a success featuring the debut of the B-1B supersonic bomber. Honored to participate, the Mighty Eighth focused on strengthening our partnership with India, furthering military-to-military relationships and cooperation. 

A chronological sequence of events

The Ellsworth Air Force Base commander and 8th Air Force commander briefed all players in a face-to-face team huddle and expressed our shared vision, mission, objectives and the team’s role to ensure they understood their contributions to the mission in strengthening partnerships.

A sea of uniforms lined up and walk across the flight line for a foreign object debris check in anticipation of the bomber’s arrival. Upon her landing, more than 18 different career fields were present standing by, trained, certified, confident and ready to execute their duties in preparation of the B-1’s debut for the following day.

It has been expressed by scholars that accelerating requires action that is head- and heart-driven. Furthermore, we all possess a genuine and fundamental human desire to contribute to a bigger cause in order to create a better future.  

Our team understands great competition. They also understand their role in executing the National Defense Strategy line of effort in strengthening Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region that provides prosperity and security for all. 

Despite all the arduous work to be done, the BTF team took time on two occasions to celebrate time honored traditions--ensuring our team members most important achievements received the acknowledgment they deserved.

Focused on our greatest weapon system, our Airmen, the Public Affairs team highlighted and featured the many diverse Faces of Aero India. Our valued team members shared their personal stories and meaning of this moment.       

On the inaugural day of the trade show, the B-1 bomber integrated with an Indian Air Force Tejas fighter for a most impressive demonstration. The arrival of the B-1 signified the first U.S. bomber on Indian ground since World War II. The crowd was amazed.

Closing  day of the Aero India was no less impressive. The B-1 bomber flanked by two Tejas aircraft on both sides signaled the importance of partnership between the two countries that have been solidified with diplomatic engagements throughout Aero India.  


I’m fortunate to be a part of this amazing team. Their dedication to the success of this engagement sent a message of commitment to our allies and partners. Bomber Task Forces are an integral part of Dynamic Force Employment, National Defense Strategy, and a realization of our strategic efforts.  

It’s not just about relationships, it’s all about relationships!