Saab offers to set up advanced jet production hub in India


NEW DELHI: Swedish defence company Saab has played down fears that Washington may attempt to block its bid to manufacture the Gripen jet in India, saying that the American engines and other systems on the fighter are similar to the ones on the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

Responding to questions on US ability to block transfer of the engines for the Indian project, a senior Saab executive said that the company had control over the `core of the system’ that it is willing to transfer and that there is “wide cooperation” between India and the US that would enable the program.

The Gripen fighter, which is on offer under the Make in India project, is competing directly with Lockheed Martin’s F 16 for a project to manufacture over 100 fighters in India. While Lockheed had shared a detailed proposal with India to make the fighters, a company spokesperson has told Reuters in Washington that the “Trump Administration will want to take a fresh look” at the plan.

US President Donald Trump has been critical of companies moving manufacturing units abroad and has been a strong advocate of bringing back such units back to America. Responding to a question by ET, Kent-Ake Molin, Gripen Sales and Marketing Director of Saab said that the company is confident that the GE 414 engines that the jet has will be made available for the Indian project.

“What we have is control over the core of the system. Yes, there are some American components but looking at it, there is wide cooperation between India and the US. We have no reason to think that the technology that goes into the Gripen would be subject to any restrictions. We have no reason to worry about that,” the executive said.

Saab, in a presentation to the media ahead of the AeroIndia show, has offered to set up what it terms the as “the world’s most modern ecosystem and facility” in India to manufacture the Gripen E fighter for air force orders as well as exports.

“The state-of-the-art facilities 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,” a company statement reads.

The Swedish company says that it has started identifying Tier 2 and Tier 3 partners from across the country and its teams are assessing the capabilities of Indian companies to handle the program.