The Swedish defense and aviation company Saab has offered to make its Gripen fighter in India.
Chairman of Saab India, Lars-Olof Lindgren told StratPost about his company’s intention to offer the aircraft for production in India.
This comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun a campaign to encourage manufacturing industry, particularly foreign companies, to ‘Make in India’.
“We are prepared to set up a joint venture company in India and produce, by and for India, by Indian workforce. You see the mix of a large number of Indian well-educated highly-skilled engineers and Sweden’s high technology in the field of aerospace – it’s a perfect match,” said Lindgren, a former Swedish ambassador to India.
Saab has been quietly working on a plan to build the Gripen in India and Lindgren said his company has already done a lot of the homework for it.
We already have a Make in India plan for our aircraft. It is there already, because we have prepared ourselves, we have all the designs for a factory, the layout of the factory, how it would look like and how the flow of products would work and we have also prepared for sub-contractors being in the same area, so we have done a lot of work already to produce in India.
We have been active on that for a couple of years, now, because we have seen all the time that we were fitted very well with the Indian Air Force need.
And we have already prepared the ground very well. We have a blueprint of how the factory could look like, how the production system could look like in India – so we are well prepared for this.
We have worked quite a lot on that – we have visited a number of chief ministers in different states to discuss this and from all places got very positive responses. We have talked to a number of companies about teaming up with us – got, so far, very encouraging results, so I’m not worried about these things. These will fall into place.
Lindgren emphasized that Saab was proposing ‘real transfer of technology’ in its proposition to build the Gripen in India. “Often, it’s only sending a screwdriver and design and then nothing really happens. We have seen many examples of that. What we mean is transfer of technology is real transfer of technology – that we gradually introduce the technology in India so that the Indian workforce will be more and more acquainted with how to produce aircraft so that will be used in the development of the next generation aircraft. So we mean, actually, real transfer of technology, when we say it,” he said.
Saab anticipates that the Indian Air Force (IAF) will have a requirement for at least 200 fighter aircraft, even after completion of all its acquisition plans, including the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for which the IAF has selected the French Rafale. Gripen was also in the MMRCA tender competition, besides Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Russia’s MiG-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
“We were working hard to be considered in the MMRCA. We regret that we were not selected, but we have full respect for the Indian decision and the Indian process and we are not pitching at all, against that. But we know that even with the MMRCA, the Indian Air Force needs a large number of aircraft. It’s difficult to say how many but around 200 plus aircraft are needed. And we feel that the Gripen E – as you said, the new generation Gripen – would be a perfect fit for the Indian Air Force,” said Lindgren, adding, “When it comes to performance, when it comes to availability, when it comes to affordability and also transfer of technology. So we feel that Gripen would be a perfect choice for India. I would say that replacing the MiG fleet that the Indian Air Force has now would take a plane like the Gripen – lighter, but still very performant aircraft. So as I said, fitting perfectly.”
Lindgren also said that such a project could see the light of day in a matter of a few years.
“We know that that demands of the Indian Air Force are immediate, more or less. And we would be able to set up a production that could start less than five years after decision. And since we are so well-prepared, as I mentioned, and we would also be helpful in using our own supplier base to try to convince them to come to India and set up production in India. So that would also be beneficial for the Indian defense industry in general,” said Lindgren.
Video Producer: Shruti Pushkarna