Saab joins forces with India’s Tata for Gripen bid

Saab joins forces with India's Tata for Gripen bid
Swedish aerospace firm Saab announced an agreement on Monday with India’s Tata group to jointly develop a new version of its Gripen fighter plane in hopes of landing a $12 billion tender from India’s air force.

Saab executive Kjell Möller said the tie-up with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) was not only aimed at jointly developing the Gripen but also at getting a chance at the biggest fighter jet deal in the world in years.

The Swedish company is competing with firms from Russia, Europe and the United States to sell 126 warplanes to the Indian air force.

India, which will begin trials in April of the shortlisted jets including the Gripen, has said it will buy about two dozen units in flyaway condition and manufacture the remaining 100 or so planes at a local state-run facility here.

“We will transfer technology and competencies to TCS, which will play a key role in the development of the next-generation Gripen and other products,” Möller said ahead of the air show this week in Bangalore.

“The contract will continue irrespective of us getting the Indian order,” the Saab vice president said.

US-based Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Boeing’s F-18 Superhornet have emerged as the front-runners for the Indian contract, industry sources said.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) has offered its Typhoon Eurofighter and France’s Dassault, which makes the Mirage, has put forward its Rafale.

Russian manufacturers of the MiG-35 and MiG-29 are also in the race along with Saab.

The Indian air force — the fourth largest in the world — has 51 Mirage-2000 war planes made by Dassault with electronics from Thales that need a major upgrade.