Saab keen to manufacture Gripen in India

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on February 15, 2016

Jan Widerstrom, Chairman, Saab India

Gripen fighter aircraft

Swedish defence major Saab AB is keen to manufacture its Gripen fighter aircraft in India. To meet the requirements to set up operations for the next-generation fighter, the company is looking at 100 per cent technology transfer to India, and investment help from Indian partners, Jan Widerstrom, Chairman, Saab India, told Business Line.

At the Make in India event in Mumbai, Widerstrom spoke exclusively about how Saab is open to sharing critical technology with Indian partners, the need for financial help, and how the company is eager to create hi-tech jobs in manufacturing the Gripen with several Indian joint venture partners. Edited excerpts:

Saab has been a trusted supplier to the Indian armed forces for over three decades now. Have you offered to manufacture the Gripen fighter aircraft in India?

Yes, we are offering complete aerospace capablility, not just manufacturing capability. We are willing to do a copy-and-paste Sweden factory here in India for the Gripen.

We are looking at setting up a complete eco system here, which will provide 100 per cent benefit to India for the next 100 years.

Are you looking at technology transfer? Under the earlier MMRCA programme, Saab was eager to offer well in excess of 60 per cent. How much would it be this time?

We are planning to put up an entire facility here, right from research and development, to production to final testing. We are setting up everything here, so basically everything will be located in India, so it would be 100 per cent transfer.

For us, it is a matter of time, for if we are to supply our product here, we need to be here. We need to be local. It is not such a big thing though, for we are setting up a full aerospace capability. It is a natural part of what we do, and we are successful.

Huge investments would be required. This is an area where we would need our Indian partners to help.

You mean Saab's Indian partners for the Gripen would have to pitch in money...?

Yes, since we are looking at substantial investment to set up the facility. If we are doing this together, it would be a joint investment.

Are you looking at joint ventures to take this ahead?

Currently, 49 per cent FDI is allowed through the normal route. Higher FDI is permissible in cases where high technology is being brought into India.

We have to join hands with Indian partners and in this case, since we are building an entire eco system, it will require more than one joint venture, and more than one partner.

We are going to indigenise our products, and are going to require a lot of Indian partners. Though we already have a number of partners here, it will require a lot of work.

We are looking at a cluster with a number of different partners and are also looking to develop tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3 suppliers.

Would the Gripen be under a government-to-government deal?

Doing this business (defence), it is a is understood that handshakes between governments are necessary (for each defence deal). In this case, we are happy to have the full support from the Swedish government. The fact that Sweden's Prime Minister was here at the Mumbai event, shows the support.

Where would you be setting up the factory?

As part of the analysis, we are looking at a number of places to set up the aerospace factory. We have looked at Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat...wherever we can get the best place. Due to security reasons and the fact that we are manufacturing military aircraft, we have to listen to the customer, in this case, the Indian Air Force. It is a sensitive, secretive product that we are building, and we would not mind taking the help of the IAF in identifying the best place.

Right now, we are in a 'search mode'. This Make in India is a great platform, where we can meet and greet many Indian companies and can identify the best partner.

Saab announced on Saturday (Feb 14) that it would form a JV soon with the Kalyani Group for air defence missiles. You also have teamed up with Ashok Leyland earlier. Any other JVs...

We have a JV in Belgaum, Karnataka, with Aequs. (Aerostructures Assemblies is a JV between Aequs Private Limited, India, and Saab AB, Sweden.) The JV provides aircraft structural assemblies to leading aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. Saab manufactures complex airframe assemblies and this JV delivers aerostructure assembly solutions out of India to the global market.

We have partnered with transport specialist Ashok Leyland to compete for the Indian Army's short range surface to air missile.

We are looking at a number of different opportunities and partners to harness the defence offset opportunities in the Indian market.


This interview has been modified to show Belgaum is situated in Karnataka, not Maharashtra, as an earlier version said.

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Published on February 15, 2016
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