In the Long Run

SAAB’s pitches Gripen NG fighter for the Indian Air Force

A FORCE Report

Linkoping, Sweden: The Gripen Next Generation (NG) fighter aircraft is slated to roll out from the SAAB aeronautics headquarters here on May 18. As preview to this event, SAAB India had organised an Indian journalists’ visit (which included FORCE) here to showcase how Gripen NG would be different from the one which had participated in the Indian MMRCA programme.

SAAB’s pitches Gripen NG fighter for the Indian Air Force

The core messages delivered were: the cost-effective state-of-the-art Gripen NG could be ‘Made in India’ under an Indian Aircraft Company with no political strings attached and with total transfer of technology. The Gripen NG could contribute to the indigenous Advanced Multi-role Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme. Earlier, the country head and chairman, Saab India Technology Pvt. Ltd, Jan Widerstrom had made the terms of engagement clear. “We do not believe in having a production unit unless it is supported by an engineering and development capacity. We are not going to set-up mere assembly lines in India, because that is not our way of working.” This is not all. As an independent experienced flier, former head of Indian Integrated Defense Headquarters, Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha had told FORCE that Gripen, which he had flown, was an excellent aircraft with state-of-the-art Head Mounted Display (HMD). “It would be a good choice to meet the Indian Air Force (IAF) combat requirements,” he had added.

During the two-day tour with SAAB, officials took pains to explain about Gripen NG’s balanced design which is not mission specific, state-of-the-art avionics with open architecture, superior sensor fusion, smart digital cockpit, network centricity, enhanced combat air configuration, the see-first hit-first AESA radar, advance weapon systems, lowest logistics and operation cost in fighters of its class, capability for future development, outstanding agility and reliability, the General Electric F414G afterburning turbofan, modular, fuel-efficient low-bypass ratio engine and so on.

When asked how it would be possible for SAAB to transfer 100 per cent technology given that India had permitted only 49 per cent foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) stake, the reply was candid. “We are in touch with India on this subject and are hopeful that the matter would be resolved under the case-by-case clause.” On the Gripen NG power pack and the ASEA radar which are owned by General Electric and Selex Galileo, the SAAB official, Magnus Falk said that, “We have already spoken with our partners and they have no objection to the sale to India.”

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