On Friday, Saab to announce tie-up with Adani to build Gripen fighter in India - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 30 August 2017

On Friday, Saab to announce tie-up with Adani to build Gripen fighter in India

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 31st Aug 17

The battle lines are becoming clear in the globally watched, multi-billion dollar contest to build 100-200 single-engine fighters in India for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Business Standard learns that, on Friday, Swedish defence and aerospace major, Saab, will announce a partnership with the Adani Group to manufacture defence equipment in India, including Saab’s new Gripen E single-engine, medium fighter if that is chosen by the IAF.

On June 19, at the Paris Air Show, US defence giant Lockheed Martin had signed an agreement with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) to jointly build the F-16 Block 70 in India, if the IAF selects the fighter.

Neither the Lockheed-Tata, nor the forthcoming Saab-Adani combines have any assurance yet that their fighter would be chosen. But both combines are positioning themselves and signalling intent to New Delhi.

Just as Ratan Tata personally attended the signing of the agreement in Paris, Saab’s president and chief executive, Hakan Busckhe, is flying into Delhi from Sweden to make the announcement along with Adani executives.

The competing combines are far ahead of New Delhi, which has not yet initiated procurement by sending vendors a “request for information” (RFI) or “request for proposals” (RFP). So far, the IAF has only sent out a one-page letter to foreign aerospace vendors, asking whether they are interested in building a single-engine fighter in India with an Indian private industry partner.

According to the defence ministry’s “strategic partner” (SP) policy, which will govern this procurement, the ministry is first required to prepare a short list of foreign vendors; and one of private Indian firms that are equipped to build such an aircraft. Then, the chosen companies are required to form partnerships and prepare proposals for evaluation by New Delhi.

While there is near certainty that both Lockheed Martin with its F-16 Block 70, and Saab with its Gripen E, would be selected as foreign vendors, there is less assurance that TASL or the Adani Group would be designated as strategic partners.

After okaying the strategic partnerships, the IAF would then evaluate and choose one of the fighters.

Lockheed Martin has pitched aggressively, stating in a company release that transferring the world’s only F-16 production line from Fort Worth, Texas to India “creates new manufacturing jobs in India, and positions Indian industry at the center of the most extensive fighter aircraft supply ecosystem in the world”.

Saab projects an equal confidence, based on its argument that the Gripen E is the world’s most modern fighter and that Swedish industry would transfer technology far more generously to India than Washington would ever permit Lockheed Martin to.


  1. 1. Why not pool the 100 x IAF single engine fighters + 36 more Rafales for IAF + 57 x Naval twin engine fighters = close to 200 numbers, and go forward to establishing manufacturing of the Rafales.

    In any case, the manufacturing eco-system in India such as vendors and partners etc. etc. are already being created by Reliance (for the Rafale).

    2. Why not re-double the commitment to Tejas Mk-1A, for more than currently ordered 83 planes.... to say 120. Also towards Tejas Mk-2 and maybe a stealthier Mk-3 version after a few years....so that production run is assured a "FULL PRODUCT LIFE CYCLE - both commercially and manufacturing-vise" for decades to come. Without this, the future evolutionary life cycle for Tejas looks at best hazy. Doesn't this assure jobs and adhere to make in India better than just 100 F-16s/Grippens???

    3. To counter the narrative of faster force depletion.... we can buy a few more SU-30MKIs, or a few more MiG-29s, or a few more Mirages or a few more Jaguars. Also why not some 40 odd Hawk is?? That would also be a fast induction that too made in India!

  2. Ajai .. seems like a typo:

    .. fighter would be chosen. But both combines are positioning themselves and signaling intent to New Delhi.



  3. These decisions are political....more than anything else....and a political decision will be taken...the iaf will accept whatever it gets ...and it will be sugarcoated...to inform the public
    (That the best fighter was chosen)

    Otherwise just getting more tejas fighters is the best option for India. Its better to make own jets...and get engine and avionics companies to set shop here in India...the tie up should be with these avionics manufacturers...

    More like how the navy has done!!!

    I'm sure adani or tata can make the same factories to make LCAs.

    We should put in our heart and soul to improve the LCA till the time it becomes as good as a f 16...

    Buying gripen or f16s is a mistake

  4. Adani's are corrupt and in cahoots with Modi gov't. Buying single engine foreign fighter is stupid.. that money should instead be spent on buying Tejas.

  5. These are decisions will be made in favour of those deserving the ruling party's political patronage. The politicians of all parties have controlled defence procurement as their own Cash cow for years. The IAS Babus know how to deliver to their political masters and unfortunately, our Chiefs of Staff have had their status diminished steadily for years, and have had their backbones removed.
    The Air Force is in a sorry state and unfortunately it will take a war to revel the full extent of the rot.
    Jingoism and talk of Chest size, uplifting stories about our resolute skilled pilots and tales of our excellent armed service, by journalists is not going to make us stronger. We should not take comfort and find the solution from singing about the Glory of India, and how Great our La La Land.
    This chorus of false self interest pretence of patriotism from politicians is sickening.
    The sad truth is that the Armed Forces are a part of Indian society, they cannot be divorced from the zeitgeist of the rest of India. If the Civilian sector is corrupt and unable to deliver the same sadly eventually happens to our Armed Forces.

  6. What Tejas?
    Thirty year old technology!!!
    Where is the enemy to make war with this technology? Is it the Taliban, is It the Kashmir Militant
    Is it the Naga Hostile?
    The Tejas you should be export to Fight the Buko Haram in Nigeria!
    The F16 is getting a bit long in the tooth too, no wonder the Americans want to dump it on Indians.
    Namaste from China :)

  7. As some have already mentioned, its a big mystery as to why the Tejas can't be manufactured by Indian private firms. Why is there a tearing hurry to manufacture foreign-made fighter jets ?

    Points in favour of preferring Tejas over imports like Gripen or F-16 :-

    1) The Tejas in it's current form is equivalent or superior in some respects to the MiG-29 or Mirage-2000 jets of the IAF. Note that post the Kargil war, the Mirage-2000 was to be the original MRCA. Now that the Mirage-2000 is no longer in production, the Tejas can replace it as well as the ageing MiG-29s, MiG-27s and Jaguars in the IAF. Gone are the shibboleths of Tejas being an "LCA", a mere replacement of the MiG-21.

    2) The Tejas is an indigenous fighter jet. It has developed an entire ecosystem of aerospace engineering knowledge, avionics knowledge and the best practices in designing and development of a modern fighter. If it's induction is stymied now, the entire country's aerospace industry will come to a grinding halt. Then, we may bid adieu to AMCA, unmanned vehicles etc. Instead, we may come to depend on the crumbs thrown by the touts of SAAB or Lockheed i.e. Messrs Adani and Ambani to teach the nation what Aerospace development is about.

    3) The Tejas Mk-1A is even better than the Tejas Mk-1 in many respects, and somewhat approaches the Gripen-NG in range-payload specifications. After the introduction of the GE-F414 engine (which is the same one in the Gripen-NG), the Tejas Mk- shall be equivalent to the proffered Gripen. The spirit and letter of our indigenization policy demands that we expedite work on the Tejas Mk-2 and give THAT contract to private firms like Tata, Walchandnagar, Taneja, Godrej, L&T, etc. What is the tearing hurry to sideline the development of the Tejas Mk- and purchase foreign-made fighters is in complete violation of this spirit of indigenization. It's also not as if the Gripen or F-16 shall be delivered by next month or next year.

    Its amply clear that the IAF kow-tows to the diktats of the Government, which itself is the pointsman of powerful businessmen. It is extremely unfortunate that indigenization is being defeated by the politics of cronyism, scaremongering, vested interests and a general disdain for anything made indigenously.


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