A Saab Gripen ighter jet performs an aerial display at the Aero India air show at Air Force Station Yelahanka in Bengaluru, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Defence Expo 2018: Swedish Fighter Jet Maker Saab Hopes To Make India Its Next Home

Sweden’s Saab Technologies hopes to make India its home market as the maker of Gripen-E fighter jet eyes a $15-billion order under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to boost local manufacturing in the world’s largest importer of arms.

The request for information for the order was released last week. “We are glad to see that the process has started,” Jan Widerstrom, chairman and managing director at Saab India Technologies Pvt. Ltd., told BloombergQuint. “We are pitching the lastest Gripen-E to India.”

Saab, which has tied up with the Adani Group for the latest order, was part of the earlier programme for procuring medium multi-role combat aircraft, which was scrapped by the Modi government after a 10-year bidding process. Modi opted to strike a government-to-government deal with France to acquire 36 Rafale jets in fly-away conditions from Dassault Aviation.

Saab will now compete with Lockheed Martin's F-16 and Dassault’s Rafale for the single-engine fighter jets.

“We plan to ensure that the process for the new 110 aircraft through strategic partnership is shorter, unlike 10 years it took under the previous government,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while inaugurating the 10th edition of Defence Expo 2018 in Chennai.

The entire strategic partnership is different from the earlier process, said Widerstrom. “We would be looking for some answers as the process progresses. There is a strong need for the Indian Air Force, they need the numbers and the fighters and we can provide that.”

Widerstrom refused to comment on the capital the company can commit. “We have offered transfer of technology and ‘make in India’ to the government. Our offer is lot more than moving a second-hand production line to India,” he said. “We plan to bring state-of-the-art technology and production line along with capabilities which will eventually lead to thousands of jobs in India.”

The Indian order would be key to that investment. “The basics of any investment is the return on it, and building an ecosystem is a very heavy investment,” said Wilderstrom.

Saab already has a footprint in India with ground combat and air defence systems. The company has a research and development facility in Hyderabad that contributes to its global products, he said.