Saab and the Indian infrastructure company Adani Group announced that they have partnered to jointly promote the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen multi-role fighter and other defence systems in India.
According to the joint press-release, the partnership aims to realize the manufacturing of Saab weapon systems – including the Gripen E/F – in India under New Delhi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. This will occur through transfer-of-technology mechanisms conditioned on India selecting Saab products and services.
Saab and Adani Group also aim to promote the growth and integration of small and medium enterprises (SME) in Indian defence programs through their partnership. Adani Group hopes to support the creation of new manufacturing units and jobs as well as skills development in India.
The centerpiece of the partnership is the Gripen, which Saab is proposing for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) potential requirement for a new single-engine fighter to supplant its legacy MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighters.
India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is expected to submit request-for-information (RFI) bids to Saab and its competitor Lockheed Martin for the Gripen E/F and F-16 Block-70, respectively. The MoD had forwarded expressions-of-interest for single-engine fighters in November 2016.
The single-engine fighter bid will be undertaken through the MoD’s new “Strategic Partnership” program. With Adani Group as its Indian partner, Saab will agree to commit to sourcing the majority (i.e. 70%) of the Gripen from India should the IAF select it over the F-16.
Likewise, Lockheed Martin partnered with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) in June to promote and co-manufacture the F-16 Block-70 in India. Prior to the fighter bid, Lockheed Martin and TASL partnered to manufacture subassemblies for the C-130J/LM-100J and Sikorsky S-92 utility helicopter.
Saab has also been overt about linking India to its global supply chain. The Economic Times quotes Saab’s CEO Håkan Buskhe for stating that Gripens for third-party users would be exported from India, providing the potential for economic gain to India above any offset or co-investment offer.
In the joint press-release, Saab also alluded to promoting solutions for other Indian requirements:
“The collaboration would also include projects, programs and technologies of national importance to India. The parties plan to develop the relationship into a structure of joint ventures in India for execution of the programs, including the single engine fighter program, in order to support the Make in India policy and exhibit the parties’ long-term commitment to be jointly successful.”
Saab would have an interest in bidding for the Indian Navy’s Project 75I-class conventional submarine and carrier-borne fighter requirements. Although the Strategic Partnership model may restrict Saab and Adani Group to fulfilling only one of the designated fields, Saab/Adani Group will have several opportunities to engage with Indian requirements should they lose out on the single-engine fighter bid.