Saab drops agreement with Adani Group to manufacture Gripen E fighter in India

Aerospace and defence company Saab said it has dropped its agreement with Adani Group to manufacture the Gripen E fighter in India. Mats Palmberg, CMD of Saab India said that they have “decided not to pursue the arrangement”.

Palmberg referred to the government allowing 74% FDI in the defence and aerospace sector and noted that conditional to permission from the defence ministry Saab would now look to manufacture its fighters in a company where it owns a 74% stake.

Notably, the defence ministry is considering original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) responses on the issue. After this, it is likely to draw up an acceptance of necessity and then issue a request for proposal. The agreement announced in August 2017, stated that Adani would be Saab’s partner should the Swedish company be chosen to supply the Gripen E fighter in India.

Saab drops agreement with Adani Group to manufacture Gripen E fighter in India

The INR 60,000-70,000 crore tender to supply 114 medium multirole fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF), has multiple companies vying for the win. This includes Saab’s Gripen E, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (US), Dassault’s Rafale (France), the Eurofighter Typhoon (Europe), Lockheed Martin’s F-21 (US), and two Russian fighters: the MiG-35 and the Sukhoi-35.

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The Swedish company is one of the seven companies which has responded to the tender which was floated by the IAF for almost USD 15 billion (approximately INR 80,000 crore plus) deal for 114 Medium Multirole Fighter Aircraft (MMRFA) for the IAF.

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Despite the addition of 36 Rafale fighters from the French Dassault Aviation and indigenous Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ the IAF is still dealing with a dwindling number of fighter squadrons and to maintain the minimal squadron strength and capability the IAF needs at least 200 more fighter jets.

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While the focus is on indigenous LCA and AMCA joining the service, there is still a need for getting 114 fighters to help strengthen the IAF which has set the ball rolling for phasing out the MiG-21s over the next couple of years. “The IAF is not likely to have the mandated 42 squadrons over the next 10-15 years. And this means that until the next decade, it will be left with just 35 squadrons.

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With its media briefing on the Gripen E fighter on January 16, Saab is the first foreign contender to make its move. What’s interesting is that the emphasis on Make in India ensures that foreign companies partner with local ones to produce maximum components within the country, besides assembling and servicing them here as well.

If it wins the tender, Saab would supply 96 of the 114 aircraft.

Aviacionline notes that Saab offers a high degree of customisation on its Gripen fighters, which means that India can easily integrate domestic requirements and specifications as per choice. If it wins the tender, Saab would supply 96 of the 114 aircraft.

This fighter acquisition has been necessitated by the cancellation of an earlier fighter tender, issued in 2007 for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft. That ended in the government-to-government purchase from Dassault of 36 Rafale fighters. However, this left the IAF with a serious shortfall of fighter aircraft, necessitating the fresh tender for 114 medium fighters.

In its briefing, Saab highlighted the new-generation networking technology that has gone into the Gripen E. Powered by a new, more powerful General Electric F-414 engine, Saab claims that its aircraft offers maximum operational availability with minimum logistics requirements. However, it will be the IAF, through a series of flight tests, that will have the last word on the quality of the seven fighters.

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