NEW DELHI: Swedish defence giant Saab on Friday reiterated that it was willing and able to set up a plant for its Gripen E multi-role fighter in India.
This comes a day after US defence major Lockheed Martin indicated that its plans to set up a production line for its iconic F-16 combat aircraft was subject to new President Donald Trump’s approval.
Speaking to journalists days before the biannual Aero India 2017 begins in Bengaluru on February 14, top Saab officials said the company had already prepared a blueprint for setting up the export hub which will manufacture the Gripen E for India and the global market as well as separate facilities to design, develop, modify and enhance new fighters for the future.
In October last year, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had issued a Request for Information (RFI) to procure and produce a fleet of multi-role fighters for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Lockheed Martin, SAAB and Boeing are among those who have evinced interest in the project.
Lockheed Martin has offered to completely shift the F-16 Block 70 production line to India, while Boeing is offering the twin-engine F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
The IAF urgently requires at least 200 aircraft to replenish its ageing fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets.
The MoD had earlier finalised a multi-billion dollar deal with Dassault of France for 126 aircraft. But it was cancelled following cost overruns and disputes over production rights.
Instead, New Delhi offered to buy 36 Rafales off the shelf as a stopgap measure and issued another RFI.
Projecting the Gripen E as the ‘best’ multi-role fighter for the IAF, Kent-Ake Molin, Gripen’s director of Sales and Marketing, said the aircraft manufacturing hub conceived by
Saab for India will be the most modern facility in the world with a major focus on technology transfer.
Moreover, after the Indian Navy rejected a naval variant of the indigenous LCA Tejas, Saab is also willing to offer a naval version of Gripen with advanced features for India’s aircraft carriers.