Saab partners India’s Adani Group in an effort to realize its ‘Make in India’ offer for the Gripen fighter aircraft.

Saab, Saab India, Saab Gripen, Gripen, Indian Air Force, Adani Group, Make in India

Swedish Aerospace giant Saab AB has tied up with India’s Adani groups to offer the country’s air force and navy with its latest Gripen-class single engine multi-role fighter aircraft. In an event held today at New Delhi top representatives from the companies announced that they would be combining their industrial forces under the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative to provide India with not just a fighter aircraft but a sustainable aerospace environment.

With the conclusion of the partnership between Saab and Adani Group, years of dialogues between the companies to form a full-blown working partnership has finally fructified. Under the partnership Saab and Adani besides manufacturing the Gripen fighter will also concentrate on unmanned aerial vehicles, radar systems and composites.

Hakan Buskhe, President and CEO of Saab AB, speaking about the partnership said “Adani Group is one of India’s largest global conglomerates. It has a long history of enterpreneurship, spanning through decades of dynamic growth.”

Further revealing plans under the nascent partnership, he said, “Our plans in India are to create a new defence eco-system that would involve many partners, vendors and suppliers. To achieve this, we need a strong Indian partner who can help create the framework for the infrastructure and eco-system to come into place,”

The announcement of the partnership comes within months of India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) notifying the much awaited Strategic Partnership (SP) model, under which the country is expected to acquire hundreds of fighter aircraft. While the navy had in December, 2016 floated a RFI for acquiring 57 Multi Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF), the air force is expected to issue a RFI for at least a hundred single-engine fighters in the coming days.

A Saab Gripen fighter taking-off on a routine sortie; Source – Saab AB.

Gautam Adani, Chairman of Adani Group, speaking after the notification of the partnership, said “In continuation of our vision of nation building, we are keen to play an instrumental role in helping transform India into a destination for world class high-tech defence manufacturing.”

Briefing about his company’s new found partnership with Saab, he said, “We are proud of our enduring relationship with Saab and look forward to partnering in major projects such as Gripen. Our various collaborations in aerospace and defence sectors will help establish new production lines in India, generate employment and build sustainable skills.” He further quipped that Adani’s strategic cooperation with Saab would go into history as providing regional security.

Even though Adani Group is a new entrant to the defence sector, Saab remains optimistically positive about Adani’s selection as a Strategic Partner (SP) under the SP model by the government in the aerospace sector. Adani Group, a leader in infrastructure and energy sectory, had been trying for years to foray into the lucrative defence sector but had been held up as it scouted for a reliable global partner.

A press statement by Saab said that the company would in partnership with Adani Group bring required design and manufacturing capabilities in defence and aerospace to India. Further it claimed that the collaboration between the companies will combine the technical and product excellence of Saab, along with the industrial engineering, system integration and mega project execution capabilities of Adani with the intention to manufacture defence systems locally in India.

Swedish based Saab AB, a leader in aerospace and defence technology, has been offering India its Gripen-class fighters even before the air force floated the now dead MMRCA (Medium Multi Role Fighter Combat Aircraft) deal in 2005. While the demise of MMRCA deal provided a stronger pitching platform, Saab’s offer, however, gained considerable momentum when MoD in October, 2016 forwarded a letter to Saab besides several global aerospace companies seeking their interest in jointly developing a single engine fighter for the country’s air force.

The Indian Air Force (IAF), which is in-charge of guarding the country’s airspace, is planning to acquire hundreds of single-engine fighters to replace the aging MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft. The imminent retirement of these aircraft is threatening to bleed IAF off its traditional aerial dominance in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Saab has been pitching its Gripen-E fighter aircraft as a replacement to the MiGs and has sweetened its deal by offering India to set-up a manufacturing line in the country with unmatched transfer of technology should the air force down select its platform. The new found working partnership with Adani only further solidifies Saab’s intent to work with Indian partners to realise its ‘Make in India’ offers.

Mr. Hakan Buskhe, speaking about their commitment to India, said “We are committed to the India-Sweden relationship and in bringing the latest technology and skills to India”

Saab, Gripen-E, Smart Fighter
Gripen E on Saab’s production line.

The company is also offering its underdevelopment Gripen – M, a marinised version of the Gripen – E aircraft, to the Indian Navy, which is on a hunt for MRCBF aircraft. Saab’s tryst with the Indian market began in the late 60’s, when the Indian army inducted the Carl Gustav recoilless rifles and today the company provides several critical subsystems to Indigenous products such as LCA Tejas and ALH Rudra.

Ulf Nilsson, Head of Business Area Aeronautics at Saab, under whom Gripen has evolved to be one of the most advanced fourth generation fighter, said “Gripen – E is an affordable airpower option with a balanced design to beat the cost curve. Gripen – E is More Power, More Capable and More Gripen”.

Gripen since its introduction has been developed under one of the most modular development cycles, which have effectively redefined the aircraft’s capabilities in every single stage. From the introductory Gripen – A/B version to the latest Gripen – E/F version, Saab has incorporated some of the most revolutionary technology onboard the aircraft.

Gripen-E powered by a single GE F414G turbofan engine is capable of attaining supersonic speeds which is further sustained by the super cruise technology. The state-of-the-art Selex developed ES-05 Raven AESA radar system according to the company gives the aircraft unmatched aerial supremacy. Being a ‘swing role’ fighter, the aircraft is designed to fly with both Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground weaponry systems. The aircraft can carry multiple BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air-Air Missile) and guided munitions across its 10 hardpoints.

As Saab and Adani take a steady flight in their quest to bag the multi-billion dollar deal, they will face stiff competition from the Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) conglomerate that was formed during this year’s Paris Air Show to offer India with the proven F-16 fighter.

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