Sweden to pitch for selling Gripen fighter jets during Royal visit

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New Delhi, Nov 28 (IANS) Sweden will make a strong pitch to sell its Gripen fighter jet manufactured by Swedish defence major Saab during the state visit of Swedish Royal couple King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia to India next week.

Saab is among the top companies in the fray for a contract to supply 114 fighter jets under the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft programme.

It responded to an initial tender in July last year with its Gripen E model.

India has purchased 36 Rafale fighter jets from French defence firm Dassault under a deal announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France in 2015.

Swedish firm Saab is a strong contender for the deal for 114 fighter jets.

The Indian Air Force needs more fighter jets. While Rafale is a twin engine jet, Gripen is a single engine aircraft which is lighter, Swedish Ambassador Klas Molin told IANS.

Molin believes that Gripen E is the best option for India’s single engine fighter jet requirements.

In October, Saab India Technologies Managing Director Ola Rignell said the firm would transfer technology to its Indian partner for making the Gripen if it wins the Indian Air Force (IAF) order to supply 114 jets.

“We will transfer technology to our Indian partner for making Gripen in India if we win the IAF order,” Rignell had told reporters in Bengaluru.

Technology transfer will also enable Saab to make India its production base for exporting aerospace components to countries where it has operations or customers, he had said.

The other global aerospace majors contending for the deal are: Dassault (Rafale), Eurofighter (Typhoon), Boeing (F-18A), Lockheed Martin (F-21) and Russian Aircraft Corporation (MiG-35).

The decision to make 114 fighters indigenously was taken after India cancelled the global tender for supply of 126 MMRCA in July 2015 and opted in 2016 to buy 36 Rafales from Dassault Aviation, which won the contract for an estimated $8.4 billion (Rs 59,000 crore) from the previous NDA government.

The tender for 114 jets, floated in April 2018, mandates the bidder to accept an Indian partner chosen by the Indian government.

All the six firms submitted their bids in July 2018, responding to the government’s Request for Proposal (RFP) after the Request for Information (RFI) in 2017.

Saab has decided to set up its India base in Bengaluru, which is also the country’s aerospace hub with the presence of the state-run defence major HAL and aircraft design and development organisations like ADA.

According to Saab, its Make in India proposal is a lot more than just transferring assembly lines to India. It is an offer to establish the world’s most modern fighter aircraft manufacturing capability in India.

The Swedish Royals are visiting India from December 2-6 at the invitation of President Ram Nath Kovind. They will travel to New Delhi, Mumbai and the state of Uttarakhand.

–IANS

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