As India remains invested in evaluating its choices and working out the details for the MRFA contract for new multi-role fighter jets, SAAB Offer Gripen-E Fighters To Indian Air Force. Swedish defence manufacturer’s Indian arm ‘SAAB India’ is courting the Indian Air Force (IAF) once again to buy its Gripen-E fighter jets.
Can SAAB compete?
Saab India CMD Mats Palmberg said The Gripen E is the “world’s most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft.” Palmberg made a compelling argument by pointing out that the Gripen E has operational performance, networked warfare capabilities, increased sensor fusion, unique BVR (beyond visual range) features, and the ability to adapt to new threats a decade ahead of other fighters.
“The good thing is that Gripen has been designed for easy maintenance. Everything from personnel training to sourcing maintenance equipment can be done locally. There won’t be any need to fly the fighters to Sweden for any maintenance or upgrade,” Palmberg says.
SAAB Highlights Gripen E’s Advanced Technology
Saab highlighted Gripen E’s use of cutting-edge networking technology in its briefing. Saab asserts that its aircraft delivers maximum operating availability with the most minor logistical support thanks to its new, more potent General Electric F-414 engine.
The Gripen is regarded as a powerful aircraft due to its lightweight, low radar signature, and capacity to get past enemy air defences. The multi-role Swedish military aircraft features a digital fly-by-wire control system and a delta-canard design. Its robust search and tracking radar enables “look-down/shoot-down” capability and a “track-while-scan” feature that the pilot can use to evaluate several targets in real-time.
SAAB Pitches Attractive Ideas to Win MMRCA 2.0
The company actively pushes and puts forward appealing ideas to win the MMRCA 2.0. Given the challenges the company has faced selling its fighter plane to other countries, this contract is more important for the Swedish company.
Although the Gripen-E fighter is undoubtedly a capable aircraft, it has barely succeeded in the contracts it has participated in, including the ones it lost to American fighters.
The last time the fighter was sold was over eight years ago. The US$5.44 billion agreement to supply 36 Gripen fighters to the Brazilian Air Force, which was finalized in 2014, was the company’s previous export order.
SAAB Lacks Political Clout of Competitors
India has yet to put out an RFP officially. However, some experts believe the Swedish fighter could eventually lose to the French Rafale or ‘other powerful contenders from powerful countries.’
Previous SAAB India head Ola Rignell had said, “Gripen has the same weapons package as Rafale, including the Meteor air-to-air missile,” emphasizing that the Gripen carried all the NATO missiles except the French SCALP. However, Rignell even offered to integrate SCALP with Gripen if India desired and still failed to impress the country.
Several experts have noted that the Swedish firm does not have the political clout of the Russians, the French, and, more importantly, the United States. The company had earlier accused the United States of bagging contracts based on its political influence, the benefits of which were being reaped by US-based defence contractors like Lockheed Martin.
Gripen-E Similarities with India’s Tejas
One earlier concern was that the Gripen-E was a single-seat fighter jet. However, since the company pitched the double-seat variant to India earlier this year, those concerns have been assuaged to some extent. Doubts, nevertheless, persist about whether the manufacturer could deliver a two-seat variant in time if it bags the contract.
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A more significant concern, however, is that the Indian Air Force is now keen on a 5th generation aircraft. Analysts use this argument to assert that if India were to settle for a 4.5th generation fighter jet, it might as well be the twin-engine Rafale it already operates.