Sturdy Backbone

Sweden aggressively pitches for Gripen-E sales in India

Dilip Kumar Mekala

Jan WiderstormThirty years from now, Gripen fighter jet would still be the backbone of Swedish Air Force, but F-16 can’t claim such a thing for the US Air Force – this is the argument the Swedish delegation has made in its pitch for the Gripen sales in India. Undeterred by the offers from American competitors, the Swedish government and Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, are extremely confident about their offer. While participating in a seminar organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on Indo-Sweden defence and aerospace partnerships, the Swedish delegation has reiterated their offer to make Gripen the backbone of Indian Air Force (IAF) until 2050.

However, this would mean hanging around patiently in the Indian market for a significant period of time with the Gripen campaign, as chances of immediate procurement is very bleak. With the announcement of Rafale from France, the wait just got even longer. “We know that air force in India is busy with some other procurements,” said Jan Widerstorm, country head, Saab India during an interaction with FORCE. But Saab along with the Swedish government is making sure there is constant dialogue with the Indian government on the Gripen programme. “We are very optimistic and we are waiting for process to start,” he emphasised.

Recently, the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin made an offer on F-16 aircraft to the IAF which includes the plan to shift the entire production line of the F-16 from Texas, USA to India. If selected, this would make India the only manufacturer of the F-16 aircraft for worldwide customers.

When asked how Saab views this offer from Lockheed Martin, Widerstorm chose not to comment specifically on the American offer. However, he added, “We are offering an aircraft that will be there and still be cutting edge in 2050. Gripen-E is going to be the backbone of a number of different countries like Sweden, Brazil and others; and we do hope that India will be one of them”.

“We are offering to setup the full-fledged aerospace capability here. India will be the hub of tomorrow’s technology which is Gripen-E,” explained Widerstorm. However, there are no specific timelines that Saab is currently working on.

Gripen-E fighter jet
Gripen-E fighter jet

Beyond Gripen, Saab is also heavily invested in the Indian programmes for air defence systems like VSHORAD and SRSAM. “We do believe again that we have offers that are cutting edge and are compliant with ‘Make in India’,” he said. Apart from the programmes related to air defence, Saab is also interested in selling its Electronic Warfare (EW) equipment in India. “India is an extremely important customer to us for the EW equipment and we are continuously building our presence in India. For instance, we are now in partnership with Tata Power SED and are setting up a production line here in India”. The production line with Tata Power SED will focus specifically on the laser warning systems for EW suites, and the components produced in the country will also be exported to other Saab customers worldwide.

Another focus area for Sweden is in the area of undersea technologies. Saab is offering full family of undersea equipment based on AUV-62 platform which can be used for wide range of operations including training, SAR, mine countermeasures and offensive operations. “This (AUV-62) is definitely on offer for the Indian Navy. We are still waiting for formal RFI for this programme,” said Widerstorm.


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