Swedish aerospace and defence major Saab has decided not to pursue its partnership with The Adani Group. The Swedish company had entered into a partnership with the group to manufacture the `Gripen’ E fighter for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Confirming to Financial Express Online Mats Palmberg, Chairman & Managing Director, Saab India said: “We did not extend the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as the MRFA (Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft) programme and its requirements are yet to be defined.”
Both Saab and the Adani Group in August 2017 had announced their collaboration to manufacture Gripen E fighter jets here in India if selected for the IAF. The Financial Express had reported quoting the then President and CEO of Saab Hakan Buskhe, had told the media in New Delhi that if Saab wins the IAF order then it was ready to do complete technology transfer to India including the “source codes”.
Despite the addition of 36 Rafale fighters from the French Dassault Aviation and indigenous Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ the IAF is still dealing with a dwindling number of fighter squadrons and to maintain the minimal squadron strength and capability the IAF needs at least 200 more fighter jets.
The Swedish company is one of the seven companies which has responded to the tender which was floated by the IAF for almost $15 bn (approximately Rs 80,000 cr plus) deal for 114 Medium Multirole Fighter Aircraft (MMRFA) for the IAF.
In case it wins the 114 fighter jets deal, if the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) allows it to hold 74 per cent of the manufacturing entity (this is allowed under the Foreign Direct investment (FDI) cap on Aerospace and Defence manufacture, then it would like to produce the fighters in a venture with a company in which it owned 74 percent.
The responses from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to the MoD’s Request for Information (RFI) are being evaluated by the government and once completed the next step is the issuance of Acceptance of Necessity (AoN). Then followed by the issuance of Request for Proposal (RfP).
Financial Express Online has reported that companies including Dassault Aviation of France with Rafale; two companies from the US — Boeing with its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin with its F-21; two fighters from Russia — MiG-35 and the Sukhoi-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon (Europe).
Historical Background: Why 114 fighters?
The earlier tender for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) which was issued in 2007 was cancelled. Then through a government to government deal 36 French `Rafale’ were ordered for the IAF. However, these are not enough to help the IAF deal with the dwindling numbers of the fighter squadrons and this led to the fresh RFI being issued in 2017.
Is the deal for 114 fighters still on?
Yes. The IAF which continues to push for indigenous fighters is looking at new technologies. These are important as it will help integrate the 5th and 6th Gen Technologies.
Well informed sources confirmed to Financial Express Online that the deal for the 114 fighters is still on. “The MoD is already in the process of evaluating the responses sent in by the various OEMS. The order for procuring 83 the Mk1A version of the Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ has already been placed for IAF.”
While the focus is on indigenous LCA and AMCA to join the service, there is still a need for getting 114 fighters to help strengthen the IAF which has set the ball rolling of phasing out the MiG-21s over the next couple of years. “The IAF is not likely to have the mandated 42 squadrons over the next 10-15 years. And this means that until the next decade it will be left with just 35 squadrons.
Why the delay?
Budgetary constraints. According to the source quoted above before the RfP is sent out the government will look at the budgetary allocations for the fighter jets.
Once the decision is made to get the 114 fighters it will be under the Make in India (MII) initiative to give a boost to the domestic Aerospace and Defence industry.
What does the RFI issued in 2017 state?
It has been reported earlier that 15 percent have to be in flyaway condition, and the remaining 85 percent will have to be made in India through Transfer of Technology and the OEM has to convey this in clarity.
The proposal is to acquire around fighters – around 75 percent will be single seat and the rest are expected to be twin seats.