Saab plans to establish manufacturing in Bengaluru

Ola Rignell, Chairman and Managing Director of Saab India Technologies in Bengaluru on 17 Oct 2019. (DH Photo / Akhil Kadidal)

Saab is proceeding with plans to develop an ecosystem for manufacturing its Gripen multirole fighter aircraft in the city.

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 Air Force in April 2018. This resumed a competition to replace the Air Force’s aging fleets of MiG-21 and MiG-27 Floggers.

On Thursday, representatives from the company wrapped up a ten-day “roadshow” in the city, which saw the Swedish manufacturing giant interact with 12 specially chosen Bengaluru-based companies. Although Saab was tight-lipped about these tier-2 and tier-3 companies, saying it would be premature to disclose their identities, it added that these firms worked in different areas, including avionics, electricals and materials. 

“The ecosystem will have everything it needs to plan and execute the design, maintenance and parts for the Gripen fighter aircraft. All necessary facilities for the Gripen will be in India, with Saab also handing over 100% transfer of technology,” explained Ola Rignell, Chairman and Managing Director of Saab India Technologies.

However, offset obligations could increase the cost of the aircraft. Rignell said that building the ecosystem may see increased costs but that India would benefit through knowledge transfer.

Saab clarified that it would not abandon the ecosystem even if the Gripen failed to make the cut in the new competition, explaining that the company is keen to expand its presence on the sub-continent and explore additional opportunities.

The current requirement by the Indian Air Force is 114 fighters, 96 of which are to be built in India. There is an additional requirement for 57 fighters for the Indian Navy.

Rignell and other Saab representatives specified India’s procurement process is different than that of other nations. Like Saab’s sales to South Africa and Brazil, a deal with India will be government-to-business. However, with the inclusion of a strategic partner (a major company in India) chosen by New Delhi, the deal becomes business-to-business, Rignell explained.

Saab has no say in the selection of this strategic partner, Rignell added. 

“This kind of policy is a first for us. We have not seen this anywhere else in the world,” said Eva Soderstrom, Head of Saab Industrial Cooperation.

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