Swedish defence major Saab has offered to manufacture its Gripen fighter aircraft here with technology transfer to India, in a renewed bid for a pie in the multi-billion dollar worth IAF modernization plan.
Saab, which had lost out in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft tender in 2011 which was won by French firm Dassault Aviation, anticipates that the Indian Air Force (IAF) will need more the 36 Rafale fighter jets that India is buying from France to beef up its depleting fleet.
Saab is not only offering to set up a base here but also help in the development of aerospace capability for the next 100 years and partner in developing the next version of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), being developed and designed by Aeronautical Development Agency.
Ulf Nilsson, head of Saab’s aeronautics division, told PTI that the company is already doing its homework and identifying partners for collaboration.
Nilsson said the offer of technology transfer would be real as they are offering India ‘full system control’ and ’full software control’.
Saab (India) chief Jan Widerstrom said the company is also ready to stick by New Delhi’s negative list, as was made clear by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in an interview to PTI last month, when it comes to exporting fighter aircraft from India to other countries.
“We have almost an identical system back in Sweden when it comes to defence exports. It is decided by the government and we too can’t export to specific countries which is almost the same as that of India,” Mr. Widerstrom said.
Saab CEO Hakan Buskhe said the company will offer any help to the indigenous light combat aircraft project.
The Indian Air Force had in October said it would need at least six additional squadrons comprising 108 Rafale fighter jets or similar jets to shore up its capabilities.
With the government cancelling the multi0billion tender for 126 MMRCA, there is renewed hope in the aviation industry that India may go in for fresh bids to fill up the gaps.
Besides Saab, U.S.’ Lockheed Martin and the France’s Dassault Aviation have offered their jets in line with the government’s push for ‘Make in India’.