Swedish aerospace and defence giant Saab Group is betting big on the Indian market for its fighter jet Gripen.
The $800-million Saab aeronautics, which has already bagged $5 billion worth of global orders for Gripen, is planning to set up an entire production and assembly line in India to co-produce the jets under the Make in India programme.
“Saab is here to team up with India and be there for the next 100 years. This is not just about setting up an aircraft industry but also about true transfer of technology and sharing of trade secrets,” said Mats Palmberg, Vice President, Industrial Partnerships, Saab Aeronautics.
Gripen had lost out to Rafale in 2011 during a bidding process for medium multi-role combat aircraft. However, the company has upgraded the Gripen since then. Gripen is now being used by the air forces of Hungary, Thailand, South Africa, Brazil and Czech Republic. Talks were revived when Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February this year. The company is hopeful that India will be placing orders to procure Gripen warplanes soon.
The company is planning to sell the Gripen NG model to India, which is their most advanced multi-role fighter.
“Gripen order backlog is at an all time high. We are in one of the best positions now with Gripen, although we have tough competition,” added Richard Smith, Head (Marketing & Sales), Gripen.
According to Smith, financing the procurement of these jets can also be customised as per the clients’ needs.
Under the Make in India programme, Saab has plans to build an aeronautical industry eco-system, including transfer of technology with an aim to maximise India content, extending industrial network and creating a suppliers system.
As part of its long-term plans for Gripen, it has plans for design, production and in-service support. There are also plans to set up a training academy to train pilots in operating the Gripen.
“The work that will be done in India will support our programmes for Gripen globally,” said Palmberg.
He said there will be dedicated Indian Gripen line at Saab’s facility here that will be supported by the Indian industry. Additionally, the company is planning to establish a sub-assembly unit.
The company is also keen to train Indian pilots and engineers in Sweden.
“We can give the Indian Air Force the capabilities they need that will meet the changing requirements,” said Lars Sjoberg, Director, Head of Development, Saab Aeronautics.
(The writer was in Sweden at the invitation of Saab Group)