Having been ruled out of the race for Indian Air Force’s (IAF) procurement of modern fighters for their depleted squadrons under the first Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA 1.0) competition, Swedish aerospace and defence company Saab, has repeatedly pitched its Gripen jets to New Delhi.
The aerospace giants, who are based out of Stockholm in Sweden, are one of the frontrunners for the MMRCA 2.0 to cater to IAF’s need for an additional 114 fighters, having offered the Gripen E jets to provide an extra attacking impetus against the likes of China and Pakistan.
However, with reports of potential collaboration in jeopardy due to supply chain problems in the production of the fighters, there were reports that the Swedish corporation had also offered a lucrative deal for its Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) to India’s fiercest rivals, Pakistan.
AWACS, also known as “Eye in the Sky”, are key systems of modern warfare as they can detect and track incoming fighters, cruise missiles and drones much before ground-based radars and direct friendly fighters during air combat with enemy jets. They also keep tabs on enemy troop build-ups and movement of warships.
According to a statement released by the company, it had secured a deal worth 165 million dollars to supply an undisclosed number of Saab 2000 Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system aircraft.
“The industry’s nature is such that due to circumstances concerning the product and customer, further information about the customer will not be announced.” as per the statement released by Saab.
With a cloud surrounding the revelation of the buying nation, it has become highly probable that the country is none other than Pakistan, who have over the years enjoyed a prosperous relationship with the firm over recent years.
Following India’s airstrike at Balakot in Pakistan under the directions of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one of the crucial aircraft deployed by Pakistan were the Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system, supplied to them by Saab.
According to reports, Pakistan is understood to possess at least six Saab 2000 AWACS along with Saudi Arabia, which has two of the systems.
India had last year, protested against Sweden’s role in equipping Pakistan with AWACS, stating that the Pakistani Air Force had used the systems “extensively “in the February 27 aerial battle to direct and control 25 fighter jets towards Indian targets”.
As per a report by Jane’s Defence Weekly, a weekly magazine reporting on military and corporate affairs, “Saab delivered three sets of radar equipment to Pakistan Air Force Base Nur Khan (Chaklala) on April 9”, last year.
According to Saab, the Erieye AWACS boast the ability to fulfil multiple roles such as air and sea surveillance, intelligence gathering and command and control functions, with their active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system detecting targets up to 450km away.
A defence expert, Anand SG, stated that Pakistan equipped themselves with the significant piece of machinery from right under India’s noses.
“SAAB has quietly delivered without much fanfare three more Saab 2000 Erieye Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) in April to Pakistani Airforce, which comes after crucial dogfight episode with Indian Airforce in Kashmir, where both sides were actively using AWACS Aircraft to monitor airspace intrusion and also guide fighter formations,”
IAF due to the larger size of its fighter fleet will require a minimum of 20 AWACS fleet of aircraft to fight a full-fledged two-front war with China and Pakistan, but the slow pace of decision making in Government of India and also IAF’s obsession with early-warning radar systems mounted on heavy-lift aircraft over mini-AWACS like NETRA makes its AWACS fleet highly vulnerable against a combined fleet of 40 AWACS fleet which both China and Pakistan operate at present.”
According to reports, the deliveries of the AWACS are scheduled to run from a period between 2020 and 2023. Moreover, as disclosed under Pakistan military’s yearbook for 2017-2018, Islamabad also obtained three baseline Saab 2000s for a total cost of $9.3 million.