From Tejas & Gripen to missiles under ‘Make in India’: How Saab wants to be the ‘Sahab’ of India’s defence sector

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Updated: May 27, 2016 11:09 AM

Sweden's Saab is aggressively eyeing India's defence sector and is betting big on not only making fighter jets such as Gripen and Tejas, but also missiles.

Saab, Gripen E, make in indiaJan Widerström, Country Head and Chairman of Saab India tells FE Online, “Make in India is definitely on our agenda. Our footprint in India is expanding fast.” (Saab Photo of Gripen E)

Sweden’s Saab is aggressively eyeing India’s defence sector and is betting big on not only making fighter jets such as Gripen and Tejas, but also missiles under PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Jan Widerström, Country Head and Chairman of Saab India tells FE Online, “Make in India is definitely on our agenda. Our footprint in India is expanding fast. We now have eight Indian partner companies working with us.”

Saab has offered to support HAL for developing sub-systems for the next generation fighter jet Tejas. Talking about Saab’s offer, Widerström says, “HAL has sought responses on specific queries relating to the next generation of the Tejas, and our interactions revolve around deeper discussions for these systems. Our discussions are progressing very well so far.” “We have an excellent working relationship with HAL, which started with the IDAS Electronic Warfare suite that we provide for the Dhruv,” he adds.

LCA TejasDRDO photo of the existing LCA Tejas

Not only Tejas, Saab has time and again offered to manufacture its Gripen fighter aircraft in India. The newly unveiled Gripen E, which is said to have improved avionics system when compared to previous versions of the jet, is also being considered under ‘Make in India’. However, Saab is not the only defence major that is vying to cater to India’s armed forces. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have already shown interest in making their F/A-18 and F-16 aircraft in the country. A final call on which jet will be chosen for the ‘Make in India’ programme will be taken by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar by the end of this fiscal. (Don’t miss stunning images! 7 facts about Saab’s Gripen E)

Saab is confident that it will benefit immensely by investing in India’s defence sector and has even given its thumbs up to the recently unveiled Defence Procurement Policy (DPP). “We (Saab) believe that DPP 2016 is a strong step in the right direction, towards boosting Make in India and encouraging defence manufacturing. We are looking forward to the remaining appendices now, and are confident that they will further build on this base,” says Widerström.

Missiles are yet another area that Saab is looking for business opportunities. Giving details about its foray into missiles for India Widerström says, “In February this year, we announced plans for a Joint Venture company in India together with Kalyani Strategic Systems, which is the defence arm of the Kalyani Group. The joint venture will handle the main part of production and delivery of air defence systems for VSHORAD (Very Short Range Air Defense Systems) and SRSAM (Short-range surface-to-air missile) programs to the Indian customer.”

“The production in India will comprise of subsystems and systems for SRSAM and VSHORAD with the aim to transfer production as well as development knowledge to India. This of course goes hand in hand with the Make in India programme. Orders of missile parts have already been issued to KSSL and production-readiness reviews are ongoing. Saab and KSSL are planning for technology transfer for different packages within the programmes.” he explains.

What other initiatives is Saab venturing into? Says Widerström, “We have an R&D center in Hyderabad in collaboration with Tech Mahindra, where engineers are working on designing next-generation systems in close cooperation with our teams in Sweden. We have recently announced that we will now be manufacturing self-protection systems for land vehicles in conjunction with Tata Power SED at their facility in Bangalore. We see huge potential for this partnership, which will begin with export of sub-systems from India for our global orders.”

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