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Gripen makers set up India office

Copyright Gripen International

NEW DELHI (BNS): Sweden's military giant Saab has set up a permanent office in India as it eyes contracts worth $17 billion in the Indian market. One of the key contracts where Saab is contender is IAF's multi-role combat aircraft.

Saab has fielded its Gripen single engine delta wing fighter jet for the contract worth over $10billion for 126 fighters. But the company faces uphill task despite achieving significant milestones in the development of a new generation fighter.

Just recently flight trials of super cruise feature on Gripen without using afterburners were tested. The company had a positive outcome last year when Brazil air force short listed Gripen for its multi-role combat aircraft order along with Rafale and F-18 Super Hornet. It came just at the right time as same contenders are in fray for the Indian order as well.

But at the same time, it received a set back little later when Norway chose to buy 48 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter worth $2.6 billion instead of Gripen. Saab's inability to sell Gripen to Norway exposed the inadequacies of the weapon platform.
Just after Norway, Netherlands, as a partner country in the Joint Strike Fighter programme expectedly opted for the US aircraft. Now all eyes were on Denmark which is likely to take a decision on inducting a new combat aircraft in March. Reports suggest that Denmark may switch from F-16 to F-35 joint strike fighter.

Denmark - a level-three partner in the JSF programme - is expected to follow suit as all three air forces switch from the F-16 to the F-35. Copenhagen's decision is expected in March this year.

Saab has not been able to sell Gripen in the European market but the company is hoping that it would perform well in the international market. The new generation Gripen would undergo series of flight trials in the coming months. It has planned to sell 200 Gripen NGs in 2008 and is concentrating on three potential buyers in India, Brazil and Switzerland.

Saab officials admit that the competition for the IAF contract was tough, as all the companies have put their best foot forward. Saab claimed that the aircraft is cheapest single engine jet and has the lowest lifecycle cost. Once cleared by IAF, three Gripens would be flown to India for flight trials as per the requirements.

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