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

Heating up the fight for the contract to supply around 110 fighter aircraft to India, Swedish defence manufacturer Saab is planning to meet its India partner companies in October to develop an ecosystem in the country. Saab is competing with other global defence manufacturers including American companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russian Aircraft Corporation, Dassault of France, Swedish European consortium, Eurofighter GmbH.

The IAF has received a series of options which includes four twin-engine aircraft the F-21, Eurofighter Typhoon, MiG-35 and Rafale along with two single-engine fighters F-16 Block 70 and Gripen E. Newsagency, PTI reported that the Indian Airforce (IAF) has issued an initial tender or Request for Information (RFI) in April 2018 for this multi-million dollar procurement deal against which all the major manufacturer have submitted their proposal.

SAAB, Gripen

Mats Palmberg, VP Industrial Partnerships and Head of Gripen India Campaign said the company has conducted surveys for aerostructures parts, such as sub-assemblies, machined parts and sheet metal parts. He added, "The industry evaluation tour will take place for 10 days in mid-October. A dozen Indian SMEs suitable for systems manufacturing will be a team consisting of different Saab companies, international system suppliers headed by members of the Gripen for India team." Collaborating with local partners and suppliers in one the major requirement quoted by the IAF to encourage 'Make in India'.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin which is now offering F-21 aircraft to India also kick-started its campaign to identify and partner with local vendors.

After the initial round of meetings at a B2B (Business to Business) event, Saab held in Delhi a couple of years ago, Saab is expected to meet the Indian firms. Palmberg further said, "Some discussions have resulted in MoUs with a mutual intention to work together on a broader basis in defence and also in the execution phase of the Gripen E program in India."

The IAF requires at least 42 air squadrons to face a two-front war but the strength these squadrons are depleting quickly. At current levels, the IAF is operating with only 33 squadrons. With Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter aircrafts getting too old to be continued in service and slow manufacturing of indigenous Tejas aircraft, the IAF is in a desperate situation to maintain its fleet. Further, India planned to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) fighters from France but finally, only 36 fighters were ordered.