'Bengaluru to be backbone for Gripen offering to IAF'

The single-engined JAS 39 Gripen E was one of six contenders for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender, but following the scrapping of that tender, Saab was presented with an informal request for information (RFI) by the Indian Force in April 2018. Photo/Saab

The country head of Saab IndiaTechnologies Ola Rignell said on Thursday Bengaluru will be the "backbone" for the Gripen aircraft offering to the Indian Air Force due to the industry set-up here.

Swedish defence major Saab had earlier said it is planning to hold meetings with Indian companies in October to develop ecosystem in the country for manufacturing multi-role fighter aircraft.

Saab is in the fray for a contract to supply 114fighter planes to India under the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) programme. The Indian Air Force in April 2018 issued an initial tender or Request for Information (RFI) for the billion-dollar procurement deal.

Saab responded to the initial tender in July 2018 with its Grippen E MRFA. Mats Palmberg, VP Industrial Partnerships and Head of Grippen India Campaign, told PTI earlier that the company has undertaken surveys for aerostructures parts, such as sub-assemblies, machined parts and sheet metal parts.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Rignell said: "What we have seen so far is that here in India, there are a lot of companies which are competitive, that we can utilise in the fighter programme for India."

"And I would like to emphasise that we foresee Bengaluru, to be the backbone for the Grippen offering to the Indian Air Force because of the industry set-up that they have in Bengaluru," Rignell added.

The company had a 10-day road show in Bengaluru starting from October nine where it had discussions with some 12 companies based out the city.

Having set up a small office in Bengaluru, the Swedish company has been meeting a few firms, including state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, on the helicopter programme.

Rignell, however, declined to disclose the names of the companies as it is yet to sign the non-disclosure agreement and then an MOU. He said these agreements are similar to the deals announced earlier with Sansera Engineering, Aequs and Dynamatic Technologies.

Speaking about SAAB's offer to the IAF, Rignell said the current RFI from the IAF stipulates 114 aircraft.

Of these, 18 are supposed to be in a flyaway condition from OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and the rest to be built in India.

Rignell said, "We are 100 per cent committed to build all 96 (aircraft) in India, from scratch."

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