Swedish defence major Saab has unveiled its next generation fighter aircraft, Gripen E, which the company said is being offered to the country under the ‘Make in India’ initiative with transfer of technology.
Gripen E, which was unveiled on Wednesday, has significantly improved avionics system when compared to previous versions of the Gripen.
The capability to carry more weapons and improved range performance, is possible with a more powerful engine and the ability to carry more fuel, the company said.
“The Gripen E is a specific configuration of Gripen NG that has been chosen by the Swedish customer. The exact configuration for another customer such as India will depend on discussions with that customer. But yes, we are offering the next generation Gripen to India, under ‘Make In India’ with transfer of technology,” Jan Widerstrom, Country Head and Chairman, Saab India Technologies Private Limited said.
Gripen E is equipped with a highly integrated and sophisticated sensor suite including an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, Infra Red Search and Track, Electronic Warfare suite and datalink technology, which, when combined gives the pilot, and co-operating forces exactly the information needed at all times.
The sixth variant of the Gripen line, the first of which entered active service in 1997, the Gripen E carries on with the basic design of a lightweight, agile multi-role fighter with a fast-turnaround time and the ability to operate from small airfields or even motorways. It’s designed for low maintenance and a service life of 50 years. In addition, it has very flexible hardware and avionics, plus a large number of hardpoints designed to carry almost any weapon in the current inventory.
The Gripen E retains the delta wing and canard configuration, but differs from previous versions in that it has more fuel capacity, a General Electric F414G jet engine for 20 percent more thrust, more pylons, and increased takeoff weight. It also has in-flight refueling capability and is NATO compatible.
Five nations currently operate Gripen: Sweden, South Africa, CzechRepublic, Hungary and Thailand. Brazil has ordered Gripen, and it has also been downselected in Slovakia. Besides that, Empire Test Pilots’ School uses Gripen as platform for test pilot training.
In 2019, deliveries of the next generation Gripen for Sweden and Brazil will begin.
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 will need more the 36 Rafale fighter jets that it is buying from France to beef up its depleting fleet.
The company has not only offered to set up a base here but also help in the development of aerospace capability for the next 100 years. It has also offered to partner in developing the next version of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, being developed and designed by Aeronautical Development Agency.
The Indian Air Force had in last 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 multi-billion 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, the US’ Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the France’s Dassault Aviation have offered their jets in line with the government’s push for Make in India.