Can Gripen E be the modernisation engine for Indian defence industry?
When the biggest democracy in the world wants to develop a self-sufficient local defence industry, it becomes utmost important to choose partners that believe in complete capability building. Saab, with decades of experience in technology transfer, offers India more than a fleet of fighters. It offers a complete ecosystem for long-term fighter development and maintenance.
For India, Saab envisions an advanced industrial body called the Indian Aircraft Company, or INAC which will be responsible for not just assembling Gripen E fighters, but also creating a base where Indian industry members will work together with Saab to fully develop the fighter system.
How will INAC work?
Should India select Gripen, the first step in Saab’s technology transfer program will be to train Indian engineers and technicians. Out of the proposed 114 Gripen fighters, the first 18 will be developed in Sweden. At this stage, Indian engineers will be in Sweden working with their Saab colleagues to understand the fighter, the Saab work culture, logistics, assembly, maintenance etc. These engineers will then come back to India and play leading roles in the development of the remaining 96 aircraft.
At the same time, Saab will also set the stage for a working supply chain for sourcing various sub-components of the fighter. Saab plans to have multiple small and medium and large enterprises as partners to create India’s next indigenous fighter aircraft. With an end goal to develop fighters in the country for export, Saab’s Gripen program for India aims to modernise the Indian defence industry like never before.
“Saab’s plan is not just to have Gripen parts manufactured in India. We are looking at a comprehensive technology transfer program where we will work with our Indian partners on development, production, and maintenance of the Gripen fighter. Any repair, part replacement, or upgrade will happen right here in the country. Besides Gripen, INAC can also support indigenous programmes such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) MK2 and Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA),” says Mats Palmberg, Head of Gripen Campaign, Saab India.
Giving an example of successful technology transfer, Mats says, “Under the Gripen Brazil programme, as we speak, more than 350 Brazilian engineers and technicians have been trained. At Gripen Design and Development Network (GDDN) and the Gripen Flight Test Centre (GFTC), Brazlian engineers are working with their Saab partners in areas such as aeronautical engineering, airframe design, systems installation, and avionics. For India, we envisage a similar program albeit with more number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers because of the higher order volume.”