In an aggressive push to capture a share in India’s fighter aircraft market, Swedish aerospace major SAAB has offered its latest radar technology as part of the Gripen fighter package along with significant technology transfer in addition to design consultancy for developing the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mk-1A which the Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to induct in large numbers. The move comes even as India is looking to select a single engine fighter aircraft to be built in India in large numbers under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Explaining the developments in Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Lars Tossman, vice-president & Head of Communications of SAAB said that they were the first company to develop an AESA radar with Gallium Nitride which, he said, significantly enhances its efficiency and performance over the current AESA radars. “We will be willing to share this and transfer the technology to India,” he told a group of visiting Indian journalists. India is looking to select a single engine fighter aircraft to be built in large numbers in India with extensive technology transfer for which the SAAB had offered its latest Gripen E fighter. “Our Transfer of Technology [ToT] is more than just transfer of assembly work aiming for an indigenous system of systems integration capability to create indigenous capabilities,” said Mats Palmberg, heading the SAAB Gripen program for India. Mr. Palmberg said that with AESA radar, stealth was not as important as it was earlier.
The company officials said that SAAB was looking for a strategic partner for the Gripen program in the long-term and India and Sweden have good relations without political compulsions. Officials said Gripen was the first fighter to be integrated with the Meteor, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile. India is procuring the Meteor, considered a game changer with its range of 150 km, as part of the Rafale package concluded with France recently. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., which is manufacturing the LCA, is looking for foreign design assistance on the LCA Mk-1A to make specific improvements sought by the IAF which include an AESA radar, mid-air refuelling and improved electronic warfare suite which need design change in addition to other minor improvements. The SAAB officials said that both the LCA and the Gripen are of similar class and also share the same General Electric engine citing commonality in maintenance and operation. “We have submitted proposals to India on LCA,” Mr. Tossman said. In addition the SAAB officials offered help in the development of the next-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) being designed by Aeronautical Design Agency (ADA).