'Saab’s joint venture with Kalyani Group will handle the main part of production and delivery of air defence systems for the VSHORAD and SRSAM programmes, once orders are confirmed'
Country Head and Chairman, Saab India Technologies Pvt Ltd, Jan Widerström

Jan Widerstrom Do you have any proposals to manufacture Gripen NG aircrafts under ‘Make in India’? And what opportunities do you see for Gripen NG with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy in the future?
Saab is willing to offer Gripen to India, an offer consisting of a unique combination of operational performance, availability, cost effectiveness, technology transfer and industrial partnership. The offer includes setting up of a full manufacturing facility; transfer of state-of-the-art technology; setting up of an aerospace ecosystem in India; creation of a local supplier base of ancillary systems; employment of a well-trained Indian workforce. We would train engineers in Sweden, as we’re doing with Brazilian engineers right now for the Brazilian Gripen programme. We see ourselves as an ‘innovation engine’. We will provide India with cutting-edge technology that can help energise India’s aerospace ecosystem.

We believe that Gripen is the perfect fighter aircraft for India’s requirements, as a complement to India’s existing fleet structure. Gripen is more than just a smart fighter – it will provide air power and industrial growth for India.

On a broader level, how do you assess the ‘Make in India’ policies of the government? What challenges do you see for Saab on this front?
‘Make in India’ is an excellent initiative, which will have a tremendous impact on Indian industry in the years to come. If you look at an event like the ‘Make in India’ Week in Mumbai last month – we had companies from across the world committing to boost manufacturing in India. However, we feel there should be an equal focus on development of systems, not just manufacturing. Only when we have foreign firms sharing critical technologies will India truly have the ability to become self-sufficient in development and manufacturing of the next generation of defence and aerospace systems.

Saab sees an excellent fit between our technology leadership and India’s abundance of skilled manpower. Over the last few years, we have met a very large number of Indian companies in areas such as electronics, engineering, machining, composites, etc. There are many companies with excellent capabilities, and they are looking at rapidly scaling up. The government is taking steps to provide a level-playing field to the private sector, vis-à-vis the public sector defence companies. This will, in the next few years, lead to rapid development of India’s defence industry. It will, however, necessitate speeding up of the procurement process – a lot of these companies don’t have the deep pockets to sustain themselves for the many years it takes for the purchase cycle to go through.

How was the year 2015 for Saab’s defence business in India? What were your major achievements and setbacks?
The year 2015 was a very good year for Saab in India, with the highlight being the follow-on orders we received from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for the Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS), which is the Electronic Warfare suite on the Dhruv helicopter. In 2016, we are hopeful of seeing progress on the VSHORAD and SRSAM Air Defence Missile system programmes. We are confident that we have the best system for both these requirements. We are also looking forward to a good year for Saab Barracuda, our subsidiary in Gurgaon which manufactures signature management systems.

Tell us about your partnership with Kalyani Group. What specific missile programmes are you targeting with this partnership?
In February this year, we announced plans for a joint venture company In India together with Kalyani Strategic Systems Ltd (KSSL), which is the defence arm of the Kalyani Group. The joint venture will handle the main part of production and delivery of air defence systems for the VSHORAD and SRSAM programmes to the Indian customer, once orders are confirmed. The production in India will comprise subsystems and systems for SRSAM and VSHORAD with the aim to transfer production as well as development knowledge to India.

Orders of missile parts have already been issued to KSSL and production-readiness reviews are ongoing. Saab and KSSL are already planning for the technology transfer for different packages within the programmes.

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