19:32 06.06.2016(updated 19:33 06.06.2016)
Amid speculations that a second foreign company would be roped in to manufacture fighter aircraft under the Make in India project, India’s air force chief is preparing to visit production facilities of Swedish manufacturer SAAB.
According to India’s Ministry of Defense, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Chief of the Air Staff, will be visiting a flying base of the Swedish Air Force and the production facilities of SAAB at Linkoping where Gripen aircraft are manufactured. SAAB has offered to develop, manufacture and undertake the final assembly of its Gripen fighter jet in India with actual Transfer of Technology under the Make in India project.
Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha is on an official visit to Sweden from June 7. During his stay in Sweden he will be calling on the Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist and is scheduled to hold bilateral discussions with the Supreme Commander of Swedish Armed Forces and the Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The visit carries great significance as it is taking place after Swedish PM Stefan Lofven’s visit to India earlier this year in February to attend the Defense Expo-2016 held in Goa in southern India. Both India and Sweden identified defense as one of the key areas of cooperation during the visit.
Last month, in an interview to All India Radio, India’s defense minister Manohar Parrikar said, “India will select a good fighter by the end of this fiscal year to be made domestically. It is not yet decided which aircraft it would be. It may be F18, Rafale, Eurofighter or Gripen. The decision in this regard will be taken in this fiscal year.”
Recently, SAAB unveiled the Gripen E advanced fighter aircraft and offered to manufacture it in India. However, apart from SAAB, other global giants like Lockheed Martin and Boeing are also keen on catering to the requirements of the Indian Air Force. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have proposed to manufacture the F/A-18 and F-16 respectively under the Make in India mission.
However, only last month, Defense Minister Parrikar said in Parliament, “The experience of flying against F-16 is what we require as we are not going to induct the F-16, at least; as of now.”