Saab has offered its conceptual aircraft Gripen [M] (Maritime) for the Indian Navy’s Request For Information (RFI) for the procurement of 57 fighters worth about US $12 billion.
"There is an RFI from India for a carrier aircraft, and we are responding with the Gripen [M]. We see potential for the Gripen [M] and hopefully it will become a full development programme," Jerker Ahlqvist, head of the Gripen business unit said during the company's annual Gripen seminar in Stockholm Wednesday.
"We are still in the phase of concept studies at the moment, and we are evaluating the market needs. We have used UK engineers with Harrier experience in the past, and now we have Brazilian engineers working on the project," Jerker said.
Saab had offered to co-develop the marine version with Brazilian Navy and Thai Navy. Now that Brazil is decommissioning its only aircraft carrier, ‘Sao Paulo’, the shift is towards India.
According to reports in January last year, Saab had already conducted a feasibility study and knew about the modifications that are needed to create a naval version of Gripen. Gripen [M] also known as Sea Gripen will have advanced data link and extensive electronic warfare self-protection suite can be readily adapted to meet specific user requirements, the report said. There is no time-frame mentioned by Saab about the development of the aircraft.
The Indian MoD intends to procure Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) for aircraft carriers of the Indian Navy. According to the RFI floated on January 17 this year, the MRCBF are intended as day and night capable, all weather multi-role deck based combat aircraft which can be used for Air Defence (AD), Air to Surface Operations, Buddy Refuelling, Reconnaissance, EW missions etc from Indian Navy aircraft carriers.
According to the RFI, ‘the aircraft, single- or twin-seat (or available as both), should be able to perform Short Take-off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) or Catapult Take-off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) operations or both’.
The Sea Gripen is intended for both CATOBAR and STOBAR aircraft carriers. It will the only aircraft that fits with the intended RFI’s terms for aircraft which can operate in both CATOBAR and STOBAR take-off and landing systems.
The selection of the aircraft will depend on what launch system will be used aboard the new carries currently under construction.
Russia is likely to pitch an aircraft based on upgraded MiG-29KUB for the Indian Naval fighter program. The other likely contenders for the contract can be Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, a naval version of the Dassault Rafale.