More reports on: Defence production

Now, Saab offers to make fighter jets in India

10 February 2017

Swedish defence giant Saab on Friday pitched for a contract for the supply of single-engine fighter jets with promise of setting up one of the most advanced aircraft production facilities in India if it wins the deal.

Top Saab officials said the company has already finalised a blueprint for setting up the hub which will manufacture Gripen E for India and the global market besides having separate facilities to design, develop, modify and enhance new fighters for the future.

The government has already issued request for information (RFI) to procure a fleet of single-engine fighters for IAF and US defence firm Lockheed Martin will be a major competitor for Saab for the deal.

Lockheed Martin has offered to completely shift F-16 production line to India for manufacture of the fighters, but it is an older version compared to the F-35s that US Air Force now acquires.

Saab is pushing its Gripen E as the best multi-role fighter jet for IAF, and, according to Kent-Ake Molin, director of sales and marketing of Gripen, Saab's proposed aircraft manufacturing hub in India will be the most modern facility in the world with a major focus on technology transfer.

Saab is also looking at supplying the Indian Navy a naval version of Gripen with advanced features and capability to take off from aircraft carriers.

He also ruled out any possible hitch in technology transfer although Gripen jet engine has components developed by US defence majors, particularly under Donald Trump's presidency. Molin said there was no reason to worry and concerns regarding the issue are misplaced.

He said India's light combat aircraft has US components and any such issues will be resolved.

Saab had offered Gripen for the Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft deal which was eventually awarded to French Dassault's Rafale.

Molin said the proposed facility would include a dedicated Gripen Design Centre, a major production facility equipped with the latest manufacturing technologies and robotics systems, a radar and sensor centre, final assembly plus test and verification centres, among others.

It will also have repair and overhaul and design services, he said, adding the fighter technology ecosystem would support the full spectrum of production capabilities for India, including parts manufacturing and subassembly.

The Swedish defence giant also has designs to transform the proposed India hub into a global manufacturing export hub as per the defence ministry's requirements.

Saab is already producing camouflage equipment in Gurugram and has set up a research and development (R&D) centre in Hyderabad. It also has a joint venture with Tech Mahindra in Belgaum for providing parts to Airbus and Boeing.

''Saab is actually planning to go beyond Make in India. We want to make India a net exporter and provide indigenous capability to the Indian Air Force,'' Molin said.

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