SAAB is offering its Gripen-E platform for IAF, seen here at the type's rollout in 2016

by Jon Grevatt

As India looks to make some major decisions on air combat capability requirements in the coming few years, Swedish defence group SAAB believes the country could become a “complete source” of Gripen fighter aircraft.

In recent comments to Jane’s, Jan Widerström, Head of SAAB India, said the group remains in contention to bid for major programs to supply fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy (IN).

SAAB’s main industrial partner on both proposals is the Adani Group, a major Indian infrastructure conglomerate, although other local companies are expected to be enrolled into the potential programs as New Delhi gradually moves closer to formalising detailed requirements for the IAF and IN.

The long-delayed IAF program was initially thought to be framed by a requirement for single-engine fighters, although this could expand to also include twin-engine platforms. The requirement – yet to be formalised through a request for information (RFI) – is likely to stretch to more than 100 aircraft.

The IN program, known as the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighter (MRCBF) project, features the acquisition of 57 aircraft. The IN issued an RFI for this acquisition program in early 2017.

While Widerström said it is “too early” to discuss detailed industrial plans on the IAF/IN programs because specific requirements have not been laid out by India, he did stress that SAAB and Adani have “expressed a clear ambition to work together” on the Gripen proposals for India.

“SAAB has said very clearly that we will deliver to India the complete capacity to design, develop, manufacture, deliver, support, and sustain an advanced fighter capability based on Gripen,” said Widerström.