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Saab Global

Offering the IAF Unparalleled Deterrence Power

7 min read

Interview with Mats Palmberg

In the ongoing MRFA program, Saab's Gripen, with a powerful weapon system, advanced Electronic Warfare system, cutting-edge countermeasures, and a future-proof design, is the most modern fighter being offered. Mats Palmberg, Head of Gripen India campaign, gives a detailed overview of the offer covering the various aspects of technology transfer.

Mats Palmberg

Q: What is the status on the Indian procurement and how do you see the whole issue going forward?

The procurement was launched by issuing the RFI in April 2018 for 114 aircraft out of which 96 are to be produced in India in line with the Make In India philosophy. The request consists both of single seat and dual seat variants.

We comprehensively responded to the RFI in July 2018 with the E version of Gripen as single seater and the Gripen F as dual seater. This is the latest and most advanced version of Gripen multi-role fighter procured by Sweden and Brazil.

Since we responded to the RFI we have had several interactions with the IAF to highlight key features of the product, its weapon suite and the industrial portion, the Make In India part of the offer.

We are now awaiting that the IAF should finalize the requirements in order to get the Acceptance of Necessity decision as well as issuing the next round of request.

If all goes well we expect the next round of requests in the first half of 2022, given that time frame, this should lead to a contract by mid-2020’s.

Q: What are the key elements in the proposal you have made to the Indian government so far? What will it involve?

The Saab proposal delivers the perfect fighter for India’s current and future needs. It furthermore supports India´s ambition for stronger indigenous capabilities and self-reliance with latest technologies for development and production of future fighters, like the AMCA.

Gripen E is developed to counter and defeat the most advanced threats in a modern battlespace. Its unique architecture makes it an intelligent fighter system that continuously evolves by rapidly embracing new technology and tactics in a way that will always keep IAF one step ahead.

Gripen E is the most modern fighter in the ongoing MRFA acquisition and together with the weaponry, including Meteor, the BVR (Beyond Visual Range) missile, Gripen E will give India an edge against all its adversaries.

The latest high performance sensors such as AESA radar, IRST system, advanced datalinks and AI-enabled decision support gives the pilot superior situational awareness and ability to see first-act first. The low visual and electronic signatures and a fully integrated onboard self-defence and ECM suit with 360 degree spherical coverage, together with the suite of latest most advanced weapons available, secures mission success and brings the pilot home safe.

With its combat performance and power projection capability, Gripen E will provide the IAF with a deterrence power in the region.

Saab’s offer will enable Indian companies to take part in the industrial process of the worlds most advanced fighter by absorbing state-of-the-art capabilities and technologies with applications in both the military and civilian sectors. Through the Make in India initiative, a generational shift in full spectrum fighter capabilities will accelerate the indigenous defence and industrial ambitions.

The offer consists of the most comprehensive Transfer of Capability packages focused on building indigenous capabilities to design, develop, produce and maintain a modern state of the art fighter system platform.

Q: You mentioned Make In India as key element of the procurement. In terms of Industrial Cooperation, what is the scope of the Indian offer? What is the Industrial Cooperation offer to India taking into consideration the strong sentiment for self-reliance?

We are going far beyond shifting an assembly line to India. Our offer provides for building self-reliant skills in India and it consist of a production-oriented part and a Gripen related design and development oriented part. We will also provide a capability oriented design & development part that is intended to support the indigenous development of advanced fighter aircraft such as AMCA, possibly in close cooperation with ADA and DRDO.

Our offer also includes an extensive indigenous MRO solution that will provide India with capabilities to maintain and upgrade the aircraft as needed in the future.

The offer is centred on INAC, our working name for the industrial body we propose to establish as the hub for our full-blown industrial approach to Gripen for India.

We have also proposed a design and development centre. By offering this we will be able to sustain the system locally while also be able to locally perform upgrades and integration of new soft and hardware on the platform, including sensors and weapons.

By offering this we provide a comprehensive Make and Skill India offer for self-reliance and long term job creation with substantial production, maintenance and development capability paired with a strong focus on indigenous content and technology for the development of skills and creation of skilled jobs.

Q: You are planning to continue to produce aircraft in Sweden and you have just established yourselves in Brazil. How do you see a potential Indian establishment evolve over time? Will there also be exports out of India?

INAC and the design and development centre will be an integral part of our global industrial systems that will include Sweden, Brazil and India. This will include possibilities for export out of India

Q: India is in parallel to running this procurement for 114 aircraft also contemplating the LCA Mk2 program and the AMCA program. Could selecting Gripen add value to those programs?

We are providing a comprehensive Make in India and Skill in India offer for long term job creation with substantial production, maintenance and development capability.

We have provided a comprehensive technology transfer programme which is more of a capability transfer, going well beyond just the mechanics of transferring technology, including supporting current and future indigenous fighter programmes, for example AMCA.

I am sure that our offer represents the best offer on the table for a successful Make In India program and that the combination of our Make and Skill In India offer combined with the product offering of Gripen E, the most modern fighter in the competition, is the best choice for a self- reliant India

Q: Gripen F is being developed in Brazil at the GDDN. What is the status on the Gripen F program and how is the cooperation with the Brazilians ongoing?

Saab has already performed the first metal cut for the two-seater fighter aircraft Gripen F, marking an important milestone in the programme. Gripen F is under development for the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and shares the same advanced design and features as Gripen E, but with seat, displays and controls for a second crew member.

The joint industrial programme on Gripen between Saab and the Brazilian partner companies Embraer, AEL Sistemas, Akaer and Atech. At least 300 Brazilian engineers and technicians have been trained in Sweden and are now working with the development and production of the single and twin seater variants of Gripen E, mainly at Gripen Design and Development Network (GDDN) at the Embraer plant in Gavião Peixoto, São Paulo State, Brazil. The co-operation with our Brazilian partners are working very well.