Interview | Chairman and Country Head, Saab India, Jan Widerström

‘Our plans in India are based not just on selling products but on creating a defence eco-system which would involve hundreds of Tier 1, 2 and 3 partners, vendors and suppliers’

Chairman and Country Head, Saab India, Jan WiderströmSaab recently offered AESA radar integrated with an Electronic Warfare suite for the Tejas LCA Mk1A aircraft. What is the update on that?

Yes, Saab has offered state-of-the-art technology consisting of GaN based AESA fighter radar and EW suite to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for integration on LCA Mk1A. The customer is now evaluating the bids.


Tell us about the ToT contract signed between Saab and HAL for the Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS) system.

Saab has supplied its IDAS to the HAL ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter) helicopter, which includes a comprehensive transfer of technology (ToT) for maintenance and production of IDAS in India.  Saab is now in the process of implementing the ToT at HAL.

Saab has supplied its IDAS suite internationally to many different platforms that include rotary wing, fixed wing and fighter aircraft to international customers in Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia and South America.


India is experimenting with remote air traffic control towers. What are the opportunities that you see in the civil aviation sector?

Saab’s revolutionary Remote Tower concept promises a completely new approach to Air Traffic Management at airports. While not changing the proven routines and procedures of Air Traffic Control itself, it uses the latest high-technology digital sensors and visual display systems to both increase traffic capacity and to enhance safety and efficiency by improving the controllers’ situational awareness. This could act as a force multiplier for India’s regional airports, enabling multiple low-cost, no-frills airports to be controlled from regional hubs.

Our Digital Tower Solutions represent the next revolution in air traffic control, enabling air traffic services to be provided more efficiently for any airport, from any remote location.

With more and more airports coming up within India, Saab’s Remote Tower Solution fits perfectly to boost India’s regional connectivity scheme (UDAN) by providing smarter, cost effective solutions by digitising and integrating airport functions. Whether that airport is an international hub, a small regional airport or a new airport, Saab offers cost effective solutions that improves safety and enables high operational efficiency.


What are the new developments at the Saab India Technology Centre?

After six years of operation, Saab India Technology Centre (SITC) has now reached a level of maturity that will enable it to undertake more complex assignments and with greater responsibility for the projects.

We have proved that we can achieve cost saving of between 30 to 50 per cent for certain projects that can be executed here.

Furthermore, we have now achieved capability in electronics development. Another important development is that the SITC IT environment is now accredited for Company Confidential and Swedish export-controlled information.


Saab commented that it is developing its supplier base in India. What have been your findings? Are Indian suppliers ready with a consistent supply chain and necessary quality control?

For us, India is more than a market. The focus is not simply on winning bids but on building business in partnership with reliable Indian partners across the entire hierarchy of manufacturers, all the way from strategic partners to sub-component suppliers.

Saab is looking at the Indian industry as our potential partner in product development for the world market. We believe that the Indian industry has the necessary capability and can absorb the state-of-the-art technology for manufacturing world-class products.

Our plans in India are based not just on selling products but on creating a defence eco-system which would involve hundreds of Tier 1, 2 and 3 partners, vendors and suppliers. Saab would incubate partnerships between its global supply chain and Indian suppliers. Saab would also foster R&D partnerships for Next Generation platform, system and sub-system design and development across the industry.

Saab is also working with many suppliers in India, including CIM Tools, Tata Advanced Material Limited and Aequs (former QUEST Global Manufacturing). These companies play a very valuable role in helping Saab develop, industrialise and manufacture complex airframe assemblies for Airbus and Boeing. Our joint venture with Aequs manufactures and supplies assemblies for the global commercial aero structures market.


How bullish are you about the single-engine fighter jet order for Gripen E for the IAF and what is the update on Indian Navy's requirement for the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters?

We are confident that Gripen E meets the current and future needs of the Indian Air Force (IAF) with the additional advantage of being an aircraft that is at the start of its operational life. Gripen offers its customers a clear roadmap for future, effective, affordable air power. That is what sets it apart from any competitor you can think of.

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