Fighter jet
A Swedish Saab Gripen F fighter jet taxis during a media presentation at the Swiss Army Airbase in Emmen, central SwitzerlandReuters

As the competition to secure 114 new medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) beefs up, the defence manufacturing companies are leaving no stoned unturned to win this multi-billion dollar project. In the latest development, Swedish defence major SAAB has offered the Indian Airforce (IAF), a complete technology of transfer (TOT) with local production. But the most luring offer for the IAF could be the price of Gripen, as SAAB India's chairman and managing director (CMD) Ola Rignell has revealed that the company has pitched to offer its fighter jet at "half" the cost of French-made Rafale.

However, Rignell further added that he would be surprised if India's chooses another 36 additional Rafale fighters in the coming years, highlighting the complicated nature of India's defence buying pattern, The Print reported. Referring SAAB's deal with Brazil, where the company offered 36 Gripen, Ola added, "India bought 36 Rafale fighter jets from France off the shelf. SAAB and Brazil also signed a contract in 2015 for the sale and local manufacturing of 36 Gripen. The cost was half of what the value of the Indian deal was."

SAAB Gripen
SAAB is ready to make Gripen in India.Creative Commons/US Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard

He further went on to add that the deal will significantly help Brazil manufacture its indigenous aircraft. "We are setting up an entire aviation ecosystem in Brazil. And the experience and knowledge that Brazil is gaining from this manufacturing is being used by them to design their indigenous fighter aircraft," he said.

Notably, EADS's Eurofighter and Dassault Aviation's Rafale were declared the winner in the 2007 MMRCA bid with the French manufacturer being the lowest bidder. But the final contract could not be signed due disagreement on price. Moreover, the newly elected Modi government cancelled the negotiations and only went ahead with 36 Rafale fighters in the fly-away condition in a €7.87 billion deal and now France will offer 36 additional aircraft to IAF. But even in that case, the requirements of IAF will not be fulfilled which is struggling to keep up with the strength of its squadrons.

Rignell further argued that Rafale is considered as the game-changing fighter aircraft in the South Asian region due to its weapon package. Further, Gripen is also loaded with the same weapons package as Rafale including the Meteor air-to-air missile. He said, "All NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) missiles are integrated with the Gripen. The only one which is missing is SCALP because it is a French missile. But if India wants, we can integrate the SCALP also though Gripen already has a substitute."

Rignell also said that the manufacturer will not get into any fresh deal with Pakistan. It is to be noted that SAAB is providing the early warning aircraft system to Pakistan to which then Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa expressed his displeasure during his visit to Sweden earlier in June.