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SAAB optimistic about Indian MMRCA results

SAAB Gripen fighter aircraft. A SAAB photo.

CAPE TOWN (PTI): As India's biggest defence contract of USD 10 billion to acquire 126 Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) nears final stages, the lone Swedish contender SAAB is optimistic of making it to the downlist.

Expressing optimism, SAAB executives said that their India campaign was enthusing them to enter the lucrative fighter market in the Asian region where many other nations are planning major acquisitions.

The Swedish company executives are hopeful that the Indian Government would shortlist the competitors by December to bring the number of contenders from six to two or three.

The Gripen is in contention with American F-16 and F-18/A Super Hornets, French Rafale, Russian MiG 35 and Eurofighter Typhoon.

The company executives claimed that the Gripen had come through well in Indian flight trials held at Leh and Jaisalmer.

"The trials were a complete success. We are very happy with the trials that went off early 2010. We are looking forward to the next steps and we are hopeful," Eddy de la Motte, Director, Gripen for India, told PTI on the sidelines of the Africa Aerospace and Defence expo 2010.

Gripen, like other five contenders, had undergone trials at Bangalore, Leh and Jaisalmer for performance assessment trials over varying terrain and weather conditions over six months that ended in March-April this year.

La Motte said the Indian Air Force pilots, who tested the 1,320 mile-per-hour jet, were a "really professional team" and the flight evaluation was "very demanding."

Gripen's Campaign Director and Test Pilot Magnus Lewis-Olsson said SAAB was looking forward to winning the Indian contract as it would mean a lot for the company.

"If you win India, that would be a strong signal for the world," he said.

The Gripen fighter aircraft, which is in service in the Swedish and South African Air Force, flew for 12 to 15 hours for eight days and also did single sorties during the trials.

Under the MMRCA deal, India will acquire 126 aircraft in 86 single-seater and 40 twin-engine seat configurations. It plans to procure 18 aircraft in flyaway conditions and produce 106 locally under license through technology transfer.

"We can give the real technology transfer. We don't protect our technology. We don't do it like others," he said, adding that Gripen meets all requirements outlined in the Request for Proposal (RFP) of the deal.

He said Gripen-IN, the Indian version of the fighter jet, will have engines with 20 per cent more thrust, AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and 10 weapons hard-points against eight in other versions.

The Gripen India Director said the fighter aircraft has a very short scramble and turnaround anytime. "The aircraft can be turned around in 10 minutes. I don't know about any other fighter jet which can be turned around in such a short span of time," he said.

Another special feature of the aircraft, he said, is that it can land on an 800-metre stretch of highway and then refuel and take off within 10 minutes.

"This will allow Gripen to fly more air sorties per day than any other aircraft," he added.

Talking of the Asian market, La Motte said there is potential for 350 aircrafts to be sold in the region in the next 10 years.

"We have a good chance in Malaysia. We are looking at Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam and many other countries in the region. Brunei and Australia are also a possibility," La Motte said.

On the life span of his company's aircraft, he said the Swedish Army has decided to fly Gripen till 2040.


SAAB  Gripen  MMRCA  Air Force  

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