Saab, the Swedish defense major has decided to manufacture as many as 96 of its Gripen medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) out of a total of 114 in India. The Indian Air Force (IAF) issued a request for information (RFI) in April to purchase 114 MMRCA worth 20 billion dollars. The companies would need to manufacture the aircrafts with Indian private players under technology transfer. Saab JAS 39 Gripen is one of the major competitors for the deal along with Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet (United States), MiG-35 (Russia), F-16 (United States) and Eurofighter Typhoon.
Saab has sweetened the deal for India to edge out other companies and proposed to manufacture all the aircrafts except the first 18 in India. “Except the first 18 aircrafts, we intend to manufacture everything in India. SAAB will look to build an ecosystem of defence manufacturing inside the country,” Ola Rignell, chairman and managing director, Saab India, said. The company has also left the decision to select domestic private players to the Indian government. “We would completely leave it to the Indian government to choose who it wants as the local partner. The rule says it’s the government which would select the local partner. We are pitching for Gripen only based on its inherent strength,” said Rignell.
Saab has already chosen the Defense arm of billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani for domestic partner but the Swedish giant has left the decision of central government of India. Few other competitors have also chosen the domestic partners. Lockheed Martin chose Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) as domestic partners while Dassault Aviation chose Reliance Defense.
Rignell highlighted the comparative advantages of JAS 39 Gripen over other competitors and said that it is best suited for the needs of the Indian Air Force. “The RFI also mentions the requirement of day-and-night-capable, all-weather and multi-role combat aircraft. Gripen E is the most advanced multi-role fighter that has been designed to meet various demanding operational requirements of air forces today. The fighter can not only seamlessly shift between its air-to-air, air-to-ground and reconnaissance roles, but also act in multiple roles simultaneously,” said Rignell.
Lockheed Martin, a competitor to Saab in 114 MMRCA deal has promised to move the manufacturing of F-16s to India if the Indian Air Force decides to purchase aircrafts with it. The company said that it would benefit Make in India in the defense sector as well as in exports as there is major demand for F-16 aircrafts from countries like Bahrain and Bulgaria. “We see current demand outside of India of more than 200 aircraft. The value of those initial acquisition programs would likely exceed $20 billion,” said Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Lockheed Martin is the largest defence contractor in the world. The company’s total revenue for 2017 was 43.5 billion with 92 percent coming from defence.
The purchase of 114 MMRCA would prepare India for a two front war with China and Pakistan. A few months back, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said that India should be prepared for a two front wars. The gradual mingling of China and Pakistan could lead to a breakout of wars on two fronts with our northern and western neighbors. The development of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and magnitude of Chinese loans to the debt-ridden country suggest that Pakistan is on its way to becoming a colony of China’s. So, for all practical purposes the interests of Pakistan will be the interests of China in the upcoming years.