The Indian MRCA competition - here's how the SAAB Gripen stacks up along with the other competitors


17 Feb 2022

The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition of India, also known as the MRCA tender, is a competition to supply 126 multi-role combat aircraft to the Indian Air Force(IAF).

In April 2019, the IAF had issued an RFI (Request for Information) for the procurement of 114 fighter jets at a cost of around USD 18 billion - which was touted to be one of the world's biggest military procurement programmes at the time. The acquisition of these jets came at a time when the older fleets of Jaguar, Mirage and the MiG 29 were slowly being phased out as they approached the end of their operational life.

Indian Air Force Jaguar | The National Interest

The Indian Airforce plans to attain a 42 squadron strength by 2035 and deploy 450 fighter jets each along the borders of Pakistan and China. Additionally, many more stealthy autonomous UCAVs (DRDO AURA), swarm drones (ALFA-S) and unmanned aircraft would join the team to transform into a fully advanced Network-Centric Force capable of sustained multi-role operations.

The Lockheed Martin F-21, Boeing's F/A-18, Dassault Aviation's Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft MiG 35 and Saab's Gripen are the top competitors fighting for the ultimate gold.

Given the line-up of competitors and the current fleet structure, how does Gripen have the edge in the IAF’s hunt for a fighter?

The SAAB Gripen


The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace and defence company SAAB AB. The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with a relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls. Later aircraft are fully NATO interoperable.

Gripen is the world's latest designed and the most modern fighter. But besides its leading multirole and netcentric warfare capabilities – where you can do more with fewer aircraft-what really differs is that with the same fleet size – with Gripen – you will have twice the number of airborne fighters and airtime at half the cost, compared to contemporary fighters.Kent-Åke Molin, Sales and Marketing Director, Saab

Kent-Åke Molin | Saab

How does it fit the bill considering India's scenario?

While contemporary fighters are designed that rely on large fleets and limitless resources, ensuring there are enough aircraft in the air when required. Gripen is designed and tailored for nations that need to operate assets independently during long periods of conflicts against adversaries with perhaps even larger fleet size and really advanced combat systems.

EurAsian Times

In my view, that also summarises India's challenges. What distinguishes Gripen from other fighters is that it is designed from the start with these challenges in mindsays Kent-Åke

The key to air dominance, Kent emphasizes, is demonstrable deterrence in air. India shares borders with six countries, each with different terrain and temperature profile. Consequently, the Indian Army needs for surveillance systems on these different border areas are also hugely varied.

Representative | Design World

The highly contested battlespace of today necessitates a superior electronic warfare capability. The Indian Air Force as well can benefit from a new generation EW solution that gives the pilots an armour of information advantage. A non-negotiable for an effective EW system is its ability to understand radio frequency emitter signals, no matter how many they are, and draw quick conclusions. The result is superior situational awareness that helps the pilot to see first and act first. Modern air forces like the IAF need this game-changing capability to ensure mission success. If India requires, Saab is willing to share its know-how of the GaN ( Gallium Nitride) technology not just for the Gripen programme, but also for ongoing and future indigenous programmes such as the LCA and AMCA.Kent-Åke

HAL AMCA | AeroTime Hub

The other element is a high level of preparedness to counter consistent efforts to probe air defence systems. To Counter surge attacks and sustain high tempo attacks over extended periods, the IAF would have to demonstrate the power and ability to fight attritional warfare against an enemy with large resources.

SAAB JAS 39 Gripen crew loadout | representative | Reddit

With Gripen, India will have the ultimate warhorse but also the workhorse that stays in the air, patrols India’s vast borders 24/7, is resilient to meet surge attacks as well as fight and win attritional warfare scenarios over long periods of conflict. Kent-Ake

What makes the Gripen different from other competitors of its class?

The Gripen features very reliable systems and foolproof equipment that apparently, fail rarely. What that means is the fighter can be deployed for decentralized operations from the temporary base(s), thereby bringing ease and speed to maintenance activities, slashing logistical costs, minimising turnaround time and more.

SAAB JAS Gripen 39E cockpit | Reddit

Having almost 100% of the fighters mission-ready on the tarmac should not be a problem for any platform. But what happens when you start flying, sortie after sortie in high-tempo operations during longer periods? With less maintainable and reliable, heavy, twin engine configurations you will rapidly start exhausting your resources of fuel, spares and manpower. The higher failure rates that inevitably come with the more installed equipment will soon get them grounded. Kent-Ake

The inherent design is another factor that works to the Gripen's advantage. The system architecture has a clear distinction between tactical and flight-critical features with individual layers in between, ensuring the software and hardware work independently without overlapping. This feature has additional benefits in that tactical updates are now made easier, cheaper and quicker as opposed to the general norm of updating software which generally takes ages.

Ola Rignell, Chairman and Managing Director, Saab India | Representative | Saab

This one feature is what would keep Gripen way ahead of its peers, even in the years to come.

Getting your hands on this fighter craft means you now get the opportunity to embrace new, cutting edge technology while at the same time, also developing new tactics constantly, thereby ensuring your enemies are five steps behind at all times.

The Swedish aerospace company has pitched the Gripen fighter aircraft to India, reportedly, at " half the price paid for Rafale". Priced at 125 Mn, the Gripen is now pitted against the 216 Mn Euro Rafale. Saab expects India to launch a global tender in the “first half of this year”. 


COVER: AamJanata

Read next

FAA to evaluate new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, says Boeing can't self-certify

Radhika Bansal

16 Feb 2022

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday, February 15 said it would perform final inspections on new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, and will not allow the planemaker to self-certify the jets.

The U.S. aviation regulator said it notified Boeing of the decision that it will retain the authority to issue airworthiness certificates until it is confident "Boeing’s quality control and manufacturing processes consistently produce 787s that meet FAA design standards."

Boeing said it "will continue to work transparently through (the FAA's) detailed and rigorous processes... We will continue to engage with the FAA to ensure we meet their expectations and all applicable requirements."

Boeing said it will continue to work transparently through (the FAA's) detailed and rigorous process

Boeing suspended deliveries of the 787 in late May after the FAA raised concerns about its proposed inspection method. The FAA had issued two airworthiness directives to address production issues for in-service airplanes and identified a new issue in July.

Deliveries have remained halted as U.S. regulators reviewed repairs and inspections. Deliveries are expected to remain frozen months longer.

The FAA said it wants Boeing to ensure it "has a robust plan for the re-work that it must perform on a large volume of new 787s in storage" and that "Boeing’s delivery processes are stable."

FAA to evaluate new Boeing 787 Dreamliners as they can't be self-certify

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Peter DeFazio praised the FAA for "taking much-needed steps to ensure the safety of the flying public." He noted the committee has been investigating the production and manufacture of the 787.

The 787 program remains at a low production rate, with an expected gradual return to five per month over time, Boeing said.

Boeing disclosed a USD 3.5 billion charge due to delivery delays and customer concessions, and another USD 1 billion in abnormal production costs, related to production flaws and related repairs and inspections on the advanced composite jet.

Boeing disclosed a USD 3.5 billion charge due to delivery delays and customer concessions

The FAA previously retained the right to issue certifications for the first four Boeing 787s when the company briefly resumed deliveries in early 2021. Boeing shares rose 3.7% on Tuesday, February 15.

Factory changes and other requirements to overcome tiny structural blemishes have raised longer-term questions over Boeing's ability to build 787s at a sufficiently low cost and the rates once planned, a person familiar with the matter said.

(With Inputs from Reuters)

Read next

Rose shipments to Bengaluru airport nearly doubled in the run-up to Valentine's Day

Radhika Bansal

16 Feb 2022

The Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru on Monday, February 14 stated that airport cargo witnessed a nearly two-fold increase in rose shipments in the run-up to Valentine’s Day this year.

The airport facilitated the movement of approximately 5.15 lakh kg of roses to 25 international and domestic destinations this year, compared to 2.7 lakh kg shipped in 2021. The demand for roses in the domestic market during Valentine’s season has seen a considerable rise this year.

Rose shipments to Bengaluru airport nearly doubled in the run-up to Valentine's Day

“Domestic shipments have witnessed a significant improvement, has increased to 3.15 lakh kg (6.5 million stems) vs 1.03 lakh kg in 2021, recording over 200 per cent growth. Around 2 lakh kg (7.3 million stems) were exported to international destinations this year vs last year’s 1.7 lakh kg,” a statement from the airport read.

“Bengaluru is the biggest exporter of roses in India. At the Bengaluru airport, we take pride in becoming a channel to aid the local community, growers and shippers by facilitating the shipment of their products while maintaining freshness. Our cargo infrastructure, powered by technology, provides rapid distribution of perishable cargo, making the airport the preferred cargo airport in south India. We will continue to work with our cargo partners to introduce new initiatives and facilities that cater to constantly evolving demand.” Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Strategy & Development Officer, Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru

The top domestic destinations for roses include Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati and Chandigarh. Among the top international destinations are Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, London, Amsterdam, Kuwait, Auckland, Beirut, Manila, Muscat and Dubai.

Bengaluru airport accounts for 31% of India’s total perishable shipments and, according to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority’s (APEDA) data for FY 2020-21, it is the number one airport for flower exports in the country.

Green Building Accreditation Inc. (GBCI), the leading authority on sustainability in building design, construction, and operations, has granted Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) the renowned PEER (Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal) platinum certification.

The airport power infrastructure achieved a score of 92/100. The LEED green building programme is administered by the GBCI, which is one of the world’s major sustainability and health certification and credentialing bodies.

Read next

Odisha government seeks permission from DRDO to Operationalise the Amarda Road Airstrip

Radhika Bansal

16 Feb 2022

Odisha Government had requested Union Government to allow Amarda Road Airstrip for flight operation under RCS-UDAN Program. Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mahapatra has written to Union Secretary Ministry of Defence, Ajay Kumar in this regard, official sources said.

Looking at the huge tourism potential, Odisha Government requested the Ministry of Civil Aviation to include Amarda Road under RCS-UDAN Scheme. On receiving Odisha’s request, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has included Bhubaneswar-Amarda Road as a Special RCS Route under UDAN 4.1.

Gsec Monarch has been selected as the Airline Operator for the said route with 7 Flights/Week using 9 Seater Aircraft.

Odisha government seek permission from DRDO to Operationalise the Amarda Road Airstrip

Mahapatra, who has been instrumental in scaling up Eco-Tourism Sector in a big way in the State, has pointed out that Northern Part of Odisha, which is deprived of any kind of Air-Connectivity and the existence of Amarda Road Airstrip near Rasagobindapur in Mayurbhanj District has a huge significance for the nearby places.

This air connectivity will facilitate tourism connectivity to important places like Similipal National Park, Kuldiha Sanctuary, Chandipur and Talasari Sea Beaches. Such air connectivity will facilitate economic growth through trade, create job opportunities, increase revenue from taxes and foster the community relationship with neighbouring States and Communities, pointed out the Chief Secretary.

Earlier the State Government has requested DRDO for providing a NO Objection Certificate (NOC) to use the Airstrip for Commercial Flight Operation under RCS-UDAN. However, the State Government has not received the same, resulting in the proposed flight operation being left in limbo.

Mahapatra has requested Kumar to look into the matter and issue necessary instruction to DRDO for use of Amarda Road Airstrip in the Mayurbhanj District by the Odisha Government for flight operation under RCS-UDAN in the larger public interest.

Officials hope that DRDO would issue NOC in this regard at the earliest as it will open up tourism, spur economic activities and generate revenue for the State.

Principal Secretary Commerce & Transport Bishnupada Sethi, who has been pursuing this air-connectivity issue with the Ministry of Civil Aviation is in touch with senior officials of the Government of India in this regard, said sources.

Joint Secretary Ministry of Civil Aviation, Usha Padhee, is continuously making efforts to add more and more airstrips under RCS-UDAN, for which Odisha has been benefitted in a big way.

Earlier, Mayurbhanj MP and Union Minister Bishewar Tudu had Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia to convert the airstrip into a modern airport keeping in view its past glory.

He had said that once an airport comes up at the Amarda Road airstrip it will cater to an estimated 82 lakh people mostly in north Odisha, south Bengal and east Jharkhand.

Historian Anil Dhir said the Amarda Road airstrip was a forward airfield against the Japanese during the conquest of Burma. It served as a landing ground for planes and also as a training space for special bombing missions. Built in the 1940s for INR 3 crore, the airstrip was abandoned after Independence. 

Read next

TruJet grounds all of its aircraft

Radhika Bansal

16 Feb 2022

All aircraft of TruJet has been grounded even as the company is struggling to stay afloat due to financial issues. At least five out of seven aircraft have been taken back by the lessors while two others are in the process of being deregistered.

The airline’s CEO, CFO, and CCO have quit in the past month, and TruJet has not paid salaries to its employees for at least three months now, said sources. 

Multiple sources say that TruJet has been facing an acute cash crunch for at least a year now with no investors insight. “Due to continued non-payment of dues, at least five aircraft were deregistered over the past three months, while the other two are in process,” said a source. 

TruJet grounds all its seven aircraft

It was reported in June 2021 that the company had failed to pay complete salaries to its employees, and was functioning on only one aircraft. “It continued to pay half salaries till October. Since November, the employees have not seen a penny.” 

At least 100 employees, including pilots, cabin crew, ground staff have quit the company. Not only that, the senior management — CFO KG Viswanath, CCO Sudheer Raghavan, CEO Rtd Col LSN Murthy — too have deboarded the company. 

One of the persons named above said: “I don’t see a reason to be a part of the company anymore. There have been lots of words and nothing has fructified in actions. There is no investor yet, and I don’t know if and when one will come. It’s only a matter of time one of the operational creditors drags the company to the NCLT.”

The airline’s CEO, CFO, and CCO have quit in the past month.

ALSO READ - MEIL relinquishes control of TruJet to ex-promoter Vankayalapati Umesh

According to Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Limited (MEIL), it had sold off the company to Vankayalapati Umesh, the previous owner of TruJet, who then took over as the Managing Director of the airline. Messages sent to MEIL’s group director, KV Pradeep, and its communications team remained unanswered.

When contacted, Umesh said the position for the CFO had been filled by A Yoganarasimhan, and added that a CEO, too, will be appointed soon, until which time he will be the acting CEO. The airline will be onboarding an investor soon, added Umesh.

TruJet utilises a fleet of ATR-72 aircraft. 

TruJet (Turbo Megha Airways) which was established in July 2015, is an Indian low-cost carrier based at Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.

The carrier operates a route network primarily focusing on the country's central Andhra and Telangana regions, with destinations including Tirupati, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Vijayawada and Rajahmundry. TruJet utilises a fleet of ATR-72 aircraft. 

The carrier is backed by Turbo Aviation, diversified Indian aircraft maintenance and ground handling company.

(With inputs from The Hindu Business Line)

Read next

IndiGo to upgrade its A320 aircraft's navigation technology with NAVBLUE

Radhika Bansal

16 Feb 2022

The country’s largest airline IndiGo has chosen NAVBLUE, an Airbus Services company, to upgrade navigation technology in some of its A320 planes and that will help pilots to navigate challenging airspaces with more precision and predictability.

The leading carrier will upgrade a part of its A320 aircraft fleet with RNP AR (Required Navigation Performance with Authorisation Required) capability.

IndiGo to upgrade its A320 aircraft's navigation technology with NAVBLUE

"With Airbus’ RNP AR Upgrade, IndiGo pilots will be able to navigate mountainous areas or other challenging airspaces with precision and predictability,” NAVBLUE said in a release. NAVBLUE is into flight operations and air traffic management solutions.

"We are pleased to partner with NAVBLUE to upgrade our latest A320 aircraft with the most advanced navigation technology. We have full confidence in NAVBLUE’s expertise which will help our pilots navigate safely through challenging terrains like curvy or hilly areas during the takeoff or landing. We believe this will enhance operational safety of the aircraft while also improving efficiency in the long run."Ronojoy Dutta, CEO, IndiGo

The airline is a customer of NAVBLUE since 2006. IndiGo is aiming to enhance the regularity and safety of operations in their flights to Kathmandu, an airport surrounded by mountains with a very challenging operating environment.

RNP AR is the ideal solution, as a Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) system using satellite positioning, which allows navigation accuracy to 0.3NM and below, and turns after the final approach point.

To support its RNP and RNAV operations, IndiGo has chosen NAVBLUE’s RAIM prediction service, N-RAIM.

With RNP AR, IndiGo aircraft will be better equipped to access difficult airports and reduce minima with enhanced safety conditions, improving their operational efficiency, and therefore having a positive impact on the environment.

NAVBLUE’s highly experienced and multidisciplinary team, using cutting-edge techniques, will implement a complete end-to-end solution for IndiGo with RNP AR capability, supporting Ops approval and Flight Operational Safety Assessment (FOSA), also applicable to departures.

“We are proud that IndiGo, the largest airline in India and an established NAVBLUE customer since 2006, has renewed their trust in our products by choosing to upgrade its fleet with RNP AR capability, our complete end-to-end solution to support Ops approval, and N-RAIM, NAVBLUE’s prediction service to support these operations. We are sure that our long track record supporting airlines with these solutions will be beneficial for IndiGo".Fabrice Hamel, Chief Executive Officer, NAVBLUE

To support its RNP and RNAV operations, IndiGo has chosen NAVBLUE’s RAIM prediction service, N-RAIM. NAVBLUE is the world’s leading provider of RAIM predictions to the civil aviation community, supplying over 85,000 predictions every day. For challenging airports where RNP AR approaches or departures are in use, along-track predictions use the real mask angle to account for terrain screening.