Along with Lockheed Martin's F-21, Boeing's FA-18, Dassault Aviation's Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian aircraft MiG-35, the Gripen E, a single seater 4.5-generation aircraft produced by SAAB, is a key contender for the IAF's fighter program

As India continues its search for 114 combat jets, Swedish aerospace and defence major SAAB on Thursday pitched the Indian Air Force single- and two-seater variants of the Gripen combat aircraft.

SAAB began production of its two-seater fighter aircraft Gripen-F in 2020, primarily for the Brazilian Air Force.

“We are offering both single and two-seater Gripen aircraft to India,” said Mats Palmberg, Chairman and Managing Director of SAAB India Technologies, according to a media report.

Palmberg went on to say that the Gripen E combines exceptional operational performance, a highly advanced networked warfare capability, superior sensor fusion, unique BVR (beyond visual range) features, and adaptability to new threats and that it is a decade ahead of competing fighters.

“It truly is a game changer. It is the best choice. The SAAB offer to the Indian Air Force combines cost-effectiveness with true technology transfer and a comprehensive industrial partnership,” he said.

The IAF issued an RFI (Request for Information), or initial tender, in April 2019 to acquire 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) for approximately USD 18 billion. It was billed as one of the world's most significant military procurement programmes in recent years.

When asked about reports that SAAB was leaving its joint venture with the Adani Group, Palmberg stated that both parties mutually agreed not to renew the collaboration's Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2019.

“It was mutually agreed not to renew the Memorandum of Understanding in 2019. We came out of nowhere (of it). It was an agreement reached by both parties,” he said.

In 2017, SAAB and Adani Group formed a joint venture to pursue the billion-dollar MRFA deal.

The CEO of SAAB India stated that the company will demonstrate cutting-edge technologies that make the Gripen E the “world's most modern multi-role fighter aircraft” at Aero-India.

He said SAAB will present a wide portfolio of products and systems from the air, land and sea domains including the AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon, Carl-Gustaf weapon systems and Integrated Defence Aids Suite (IDAS).

In addition, a full-scale Gripen E replica and a Gripen E cockpit simulator will bring the aircraft's game-changing capabilities to life, he said.

“At Aero India 2023, we will demonstrate our latest technologies that are changing defence and security planning, deployment, and future force readiness,” said SAAB India's CMD.

“Our team from India, Sweden, and other countries will be there to share our diverse range of products, solutions, plans, and ideas about how we can best collaborate with the Indian defence industry to build an Atmanirbhar Bharat,” Palmberg explained.

Asserting that SAAB is fully committed to complementing India's 'Atmanirbhar' (self-reliance) approach in defence manufacturing, he stated that the company is establishing a Carl-Gustaf manufacturing facility in India.

“The facility will support the production of the Carl-Gustaf M4 for the Indian Armed Forces as well as components for users of the system around the world,” he said, adding that production will begin in 2024.

“SAAB will also partner with Indian sub-suppliers and the systems manufactured in the facility will fully meet the Make in India requirements,” he added

In response to a question about whether SAAB was looking for an Indian partner as part of its preparations for the MRFA deal, Palmberg said the decision would be made once the Indian authorities clarified the nature of the program's implementation.

In 2017, the government unveiled a strategic partnership model in which select domestic private firms will be enlisted to collaborate with foreign entities to build military platforms such as submarines and fighter jets in India.