BANGALORE: Swedish fighter aircraft Gripen, which is among probable contenders for the 100-plus fighter planes deal India has floated RFI (request for information) for, will not fly at Aero India this time. Reason: The ministry of defence (MoD) couldn’t finalise the venue for the biennial show soon enough.

The Gripen, which was part of multiple Aero India shows, has been a huge draw among people. Its maker SAAB, which is among the seven firms that have responded to India’s RFI, was also a contender in the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRC) deal that was bagged by Dassault’s Rafale.

However, the government of India latter scrapped that deal in favour of an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) which will see the Indian Air Force (IAF) get 36 Rafales to form two squadrons under an emergency procurement.

“Due to the late decision of timing and venue for Aero India-2019, the aircraft were already booked for other tasks,” a SAAB spokesperson informed TOI through email.

“Instead, SAAB will focus on showing real capabilities of Gripen E through the ground combat simulator. We’ll also exhibit the full-scale replica. Gripen has flown at several occasions at Aero India, its latest appearance was in 2017 when we brought three aircraft,” the spokesperson said.

Traditionally, the date and venue for the show’s next edition used to be announced at the inaugural. However, the MoD did not do that in 2017. In August 2018, media reports claimed the venue was being changed and that the show would move to Bakshi-ka-Talab airbase on the outskirts of Lucknow. The MoD did not clarify on the matter immediately.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on August 4, 2018, said: “...Yes there have been demands from various states, but we’ll announce the date and venue when a decision is taken.” It was only in September that the MoD finally fixed the date and venue, which many industry insiders said was too late.

Apart from Gripen and Rafale, the other five aircraft whose firms have responded to the RFI are the Eurofighter Typhoon built by a consortium led by BAE and Airbus, the Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Falcon and the Russian MiG-35 and Sukhoi-35. Of these, only the Super Hornet and F-16 will come to the show, but the former won’t fly. And, the reasons for why the Typhoon, MiG-35 and Su-35 aren’t coming could not be immediately ascertained.