Saab offers high-tech jet production hub to India

Saab offers high-tech jet production hub to India

NEW DELHI - Agence France-Presse
Saab offers high-tech jet production hub to India

AFP photo

Swedish defense giant Saab has offered to build a state-of-the-art fighter jet factory in India should it seal a lucrative deal to supply hundreds of military jets to New Delhi.

Saab and its U.S. competitor Lockheed Martin have emerged as the frontrunners to supply around 250 single-engine combat planes to India’s air force which wants to revamp its Soviet-era military hardware.

The Saab proposal would see “the world’s most modern” military aircraft factory roll out the Gripen E fighter not just for India but the global market.

“It is an unrivalled offer that will set new standards in aeronautical engineering excellence for decades to come, should India procure Gripen,” Saab India chairman Jan Widerstrom said in a statement on Feb. 10.

The offer comes just days after Lockheed Martin indicated its plan to set up a production line in India for its iconic F-16 combat aircraft was subject to approval from the new administration under Donald Trump.

Saab’s proposal also comes amid a push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reduce India’s reliance on expensive defense imports while it seeks to bolster its military in the face of China’s growing clout in the region.

Modi’s government has raised the limit on foreign investment in the defense sector and encouraged tie-ups between foreign and local companies under a ‘Make in India’ campaign.

Saab said its proposal met the objectives of the world’s largest defense importer.

“Saab is offering an industrial facility that will be the center-of-gravity for the Made-in-India Gripen,” said Widerstrom.

Last year India signed a contract to buy 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets for 7.9 billion euros ($8.8 billion) after major delays and obstacles over the cost and assembly of the planes in India.