Swedish defense major Saab announced on January 16 that it was ending its partnership with India’s Adani Group to produce the Gripen E fighters in India.
The Swedish company officially announced its agreement with the Gautam Aadani-led Adani Group on August 31, 2017, aiming to bolster its position in the competition to supply India’s Air Force with brand-new jets.
The contract for 114 medium multirole fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force is believed to be worth approximately US $10-20 billion, and Saab is one of several major aerospace companies competing in it.
The two companies’ partnership would be implemented if the Indian Air Force selected SAAB to receive the contract for 114 Multirole fighter aircraft. According to the business standard, SAAB, however, has now decided to abandon that partnership.
“We have decided not to pursue the arrangement with the Adanis,” stated Mats Palmberg, chairman and managing director of Saab India, during a media interaction in New Delhi on January 16.
In addition to Saab, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (US), Lockheed Martin’s F-21 (US), Dassault’s Rafale (France), the Eurofighter Typhoon (Europe), and two Russian fighters, the MiG-35 and Sukhoi-35, are participating in the competition.
The alliance between the Swedish company and the Indian company, Adani Group, was previously hailed as a significant boost for India’s domestic defense industry. The Adani Group is led by business tycoon and one of the world’s richest people, Gautam Adani.
The Indian company was optimistic about the collaboration and noted in 2017 that Saab sought long-term cooperation and was ready to share technology and expertise. At the time, Gautam Adani, Chairman of the Adani Group, said, “Gripen will be offered to the Indian government as one of the best solutions for India’s single-engine fighter aircraft.”
Saab has been actively promoting its Gripen fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force. The Rafale outperformed Gripen in a bid to deliver 126 new warplanes to the Indian Air Force, and New Delhi eventually bought 36 French warplanes.
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The latest development is a surprise, given how vigorously the firm promotes its aircraft to the Indian Air Force. It is important to note that Saab has been ferociously promoting its economic strength and aims to make the MRFA competition about reliability at a reasonable price.
In November 2021, Saab Group even made a striking pre-tender bid for an Indian order for 114 fighter planes by announcing that the Gripen single-engine fighter is available for half the price India had paid for the Rafale.
Air Marshal Pranab Kumar Barbora (Retd) previously told the EurAsian Times that Gripen’s single-engine design would not put it at a disadvantage. He added that technology had grown so much that the airplane’s reliability has increased countless times.
The reason for the dissolution of the relationship with the Adani Group was kept under wraps by Saab India chairman Palmberg, but he did provide some information about the company’s plans in India.
The company has not announced any other partners. However, Palmberg stated that provided the Indian defense ministry enabled Saab to retain 74 percent of the manufacturing entity — which is allowed under the foreign direct investment cap on defense and aerospace manufacturing — the company would prefer to produce the fighters in a company in which Saab held 74 percent.
The defense ministry has reportedly asked for information and is assessing the original equipment makers’ responses. The ministry will then release a request for the proposal after drafting an acceptance of necessity.
The Swedish firm was the first foreign vendor to move in what the aerospace industry anticipates to be a hotly contested procurement, with a thorough media briefing on the performance characteristics of the Gripen E fighter on January 16, Business Standard noted.
Saab highlighted Gripen E’s use of cutting-edge networking technology in its briefing. Saab asserts that its aircraft delivers maximum operating availability with the least logistical support thanks to its new, more potent General Electric F-414 engine.