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SAAB is one of seven aerospace companies bidding for its Gripen-E in the MRFA contract to supply 114 multi-role fighter jets to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

According to Gaston Dubios of the Aviacionline website, Swedish aerospace and defence giant SAAB, which had inked a collaboration agreement with the Adani Group to build the Gripen E fighter in India, said Monday that the transaction was no longer proceeding.

«We have chosen not to proceed with the Adani deal,» SAAB India chairman and managing director Mats Palmberg said at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday.

On August 31, 2017, SAAB and Adani Group announced their alliance. The deal would take effect if SAAB is chosen as a foreign partner to supply the Gripen E fighter.

Along with SAAB, there are Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15EX (US), Lockheed Martin’s F-21 (US), Dassault’s Rafale (France), Eurofighter Typhoon (Europe), and two Russian fighters: the MiG-35 and Sukhoi-35.

When asked who SAAB would partner with to build the Gripen E in India, Palmberg said that if the Indian Ministry of Defence allowed SAAB to own 74% of the manufacturing entity—which is allowed under the limit on foreign direct investment in aerospace and defence manufacturing—he would prefer to manufacture the fighters in a company in which SAAB owned 74%.

The MoD has submitted a request for information and is reportedly reviewing the responses of the OEMs. The ministry’s next step will be to draught an acceptance of necessity and then release a request for proposal.

The MRFA Competition, or MMRCA 2.0.

In 2007, the Indian Air Force published an international tender for the procurement of 126 medium-weight multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA programme), to equip eight squadrons and retire from active service a wide range of aircraft variants. However, after years of back and forth, the tender was scrapped in 2015, and it was instead decided to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft straight from Dassault to meet the most pressing demands.

India MRCA

The MMRCA competition was sometimes referred to as MRCA. However, this left the IAF with a significant shortage of fighter aircraft, prompting the initiation of a new international tender in 2018 for 114 4.5-generation fighters, now under the MRFA (Multi Role Fighter Aircraft) programme, to equip around 6 squadrons of fighter aircraft.

One of the primary prerequisites of the MRFA (as it was of the defunct MMRCA programme) under the «Make in India» policy is that international businesses cooperate with local companies to create as many of the fighter components, as well as their assembly and servicing, in India.

SAAB’s Proposal

According to SAAB’s subsite “Gripen for India,” if India chooses the Gripen, SAAB will produce 96 of the 114 aircraft required by the Indian Air Force at the proposed Indian industrial location. This would result in the establishment of a large number of high-tech jobs in the country.

SAAB offers a high level of customization on its Gripen, allowing India to combine the avionics and armament systems of its choice.

Gripen India Ltd.

SAAB’s proposition aims to build an autonomous industrial base capable of designing, developing, manufacturing, upgrading, and maintaining the Gripen system, moving beyond the simple fabrication of subcomponents with Indian partners. This station, in addition to the Gripen, will give technological assistance to indigenous fighter programmes such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS MK-2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) (AMCA).

However, SAAB will now have to seek an alternative to the cooperation with the Adani Group in order to better position itself for the MRFA competition.

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