Sweden’s ambassador to India has said that Saab Gripen, the country’s most bankable fighter jet is “definitely a contender” for India’s Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract.
In a bid to bolster the air capabilities, the Indian Air Force has proposed the procurement of 114 additional fighter jets under MMRCA 2.0. Swedish aerospace giant Saab had lost the first MMRCA competition to French Dassault, which signed a contract for 36 Rafale jets with New Delhi.
However, the loss did not deter Saab, which is now pitching hard its multirole Gripen fighters to New Delhi by offering its entire production technology to meet the ‘Make in India’ norms.
India has been steadily procuring military hardware, including the French Rafale fighters, Apache attack helicopters, and CH-47 Chinook transport choppers to bolster the combat capabilities of the country’s military.
Having almost faced a war-like situation with China last year, India has allowed its armed forces to procure weapons on an urgent basis.
The purchase of 36 Dassault Rafales from France is a step in the right direction. However, the Indian Air Force (IAF) still needs more advanced fighters to augment its squadrons.
In an interview with The Hindu, Swedish ambassador Klas Molin said Saab’s Gripen is “definitely a contender” in the MMRCA competition. To a specific question, if IAF will consider picking the Gripen fighters in the future, Molin said,
“Absolutely, and I believe that is also Saab’s assessment. The tender is still there, it is modified, and it was opened up to two more categories. It was a single-engine, originally, that was broadened to include all kinds of multi-role fighters.”
The JAS-39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole combat aircraft designed and manufactured by the Swedish aerospace giant, Saab AB.
The 4+ generation fighter jet can carry up to seven Meteor missiles. It also carries visual range (BVR) weapons to track and kill targets at a range of up to 80 miles.
The fighter can attain speeds of Mach 2 with supercruise ability, while also being able to offer a range of 1500 kilometers. The advanced jet boasts a maximum takeoff load of 16,500kg.
Highly agile and versatile, the Gripen fighters boast the best electronic warfare (EW) suite in the world. The fighters have already been exported to Brazil, Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
It uses a pulse-doppler radar and comes with a massive weapons load, making it an absolute lethal proposition for India.
The Gripens can carry almost every weapon in service with NATO, including AIM-9 variants, IRIS-T, AIM-120 AMRAAM, Meteor, MICA, AGM-65 Maverick, KEPD 350 ALCM, and a host of other air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
India is looking to procure additional fighters for the proposed MMRCA 2.0 and the Gripens are contenders for it.
“Saab is definitely a contender and would very much like to partner with India, for co-development and production in India. I believe the process is ongoing,” Molin told The Hindu.
Earlier, the head of the company’s India Campaign, Mats Palmberg had suggested that if the Gripens were selected for India, SAAB would set up an Indian Aircraft Company (INAC).
“If the Gripen fighter is selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the 114 fighter tender which is underway, then INAC will be set up,” Palmberg had said.
He said that the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) will control the setup in order to “take responsibility and meet customer expectations”.
“This will enable the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to have control over the setup and they can take responsibility and also meet customer expectations,” said Palmberg.
The Gripen fighters are considered to be the Swedish Defense industry’s largest export in financial terms, with the fighters having an immense success rate in replacing aging fighter fleets of former Warsaw Pact countries as well have also been sold in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
According to reports, the SAAB Gripens could also be integrated with Indian-made missiles, which would be a significant step under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
“We want to have several partners for ‘Make in India’ solution and are looking forward to working with individuals to establish our eco-system. We are in touch with international partners to satisfy the Indian needs for indigenous content.
“If we are successful, the same capabilities that we use in Sweden can be used in India,” said Palmberg.
The Gripen, however, faces stiff competition from fighters like Boeing’s F-15EX, Lockheed Martin’s F-21 fighters, Eurofighter Typhoons, besides the French Rafales.
Boeing is already pitching its F-15EX fighters to India. The F-15EX is an advanced variant of the F-15 Strike Eagle fighter.