T he Swedish fighter aircraft Gripen has suffered a setback in the six-vendor race to bag the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) order for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The Jerusalem Post has reported that under US pressure the Israeli Defense Ministry has ordered the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to withdraw from a project to jointly develop the Gripen IN with Gripen’s parent company Saab. The Gripen IN is the aircraft Saab has been proposing to offer the Indian Air Force.
The Jerusalem Post reports, ‘The Defense Ministry ordered IAI to back out of the deal after the Pentagon expressed concern that American technology, used by Israel, would be integrated into the Gripen offered to the Indians.’
The report quotes an unnamed Israeli official, who said, “The stated concern was that western technology in Israeli hands would make its way to the Indians.”
But significantly, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are both also in the race to bag the around US $ 12 billion order for 126 fighter aircraft, pitching the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the F-16IN respectively.
The report says that according to Israeli officials, ‘it was more likely that the Americans were concerned that if IAI competed for the deal with Saab it would force the American companies to lower their prices’.
The report also points out that this is not the first time an Israeli company has been ‘forced out of a deal’ where US companies might also be competing, referring to previous incident where Israel withdrew from competition to provide Turkey with a new tank.
The other competitors for the MMRCA order are the European EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon, the French Dassault’s Rafale and the Russian MiG-35.
Israeli firms have been remarkably successful in marketing military hardware to India in recent years and Gripen would have vastly benefited by having an Israeli partner in the MMRCA race.