Saab offers to set up advanced jet production hub in India

Saab offers to set up advanced jet production hub in India

Eyeing a contract for IAF's single-engine fighter jets, Swedish defence giant Saab today said it will set up in India one of the most advanced aircraft production facilities globally if its Gripen E multi-role jet wins the deal.

Top Saab officials said the company has already finalised a blue-print for setting up the hub which will manufacture Gripen E for India and the global market besides having separate facilities to design, develop, modify and enhance new fighters for the future.

The government has already issued Request for Information (RFI) to procure a fleet of single-engine fighters for IAF and US defence form Lockheed Martin will be a major competitor for Saab for the deal.

Lockheed Martin has offered to completely shift a F-16 production line to India for manufacture of the fighters. Kent-Ake Molin, Director of Sales and Marketing of Gripen, projecting Gripen E as the "best" multi-role fighter for IAF, 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.

Saab is also looking at supplying the Indian Navy a naval version of Gripen with advanced features and capablility to take off from aircraft carriers.

Asked whether technology transfer would be difficult as Gripen jet engine has components developed by US defence majors, particularly under Donald Trump's presidency, Molin said there was no reason to worry and concerns regarding the issue are misplaced.

He said India's light combat aircraft has US components and any such issues will be resolved. Saab had offered Gripen for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal which was eventually awarded to French Dassault's Rafale.

Molin said the facility for India would include a dedicated Gripen Design Centre, a major production facility equipped with the latest manufacturing technologies and robotics systems, a radar and sensor centre, final assembly plus test and verification centres, among others.

It will also have repair and overhaul and design services, he said, adding the fighter technology ecosystem would support the full spectrum of production capabilities for India, including parts manufacturing and sub-assembly.

Exuding confidence of winning the deal, Molin said Saab has already held talks with 80-100 companies in India for the mega production facility and that the company has already given a presentation to the government about its plan.

Another Saab official said the company has finalised a deal for maintenance of electronic warfare (EW) suit for Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Top Saab executive Tony Ogivy said the firm would incubate partnerships between its global supply chain and Indian suppliers. "Saab would also foster R&D partnerships for next-generation platform, system and sub-system design and development across the industry. To support the Gripen facilities and the wider aerospace industry, Saab will set up a training academy for pilots, technicians and aerospace engineers," said Molin.

He said the company would be in a position to start work on its plans for the facility within a month of getting the contract. Saab has started to identify and evaluate Tier II and Tier III partners from all over India. The firm has already evaluated potential sites in a number of states and has entered into discussions with several state governments.

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