Saab has offered to supply an unspecified number of Gripen Aircraft in a fly-away condition to the Indian Air Force (IAF) to replenish its fleet in the short term.
Sources told defenseworld.net that the offer was made during a presentation to the Indian MoD ahead of the Swedish Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist's visited Delhi last month. Saab has also offered to manufacture the aircraft in India in conjunction with an Indian partner as a ‘Make in India’ project.
The IAF, which is already short of fighters, has decided to phase out three squadrons of Mig-21 and MiG-27 aircraft by 2016. It expects to fill the gap by acquiring the Dassault Rafale but the earliest the aircraft are expected in India is 2016-17 provided the current Indo-French negotiations are wrapped up quickly.
Saab has offered to take some aircraft from its inventory meant for other customers and supply to India, the sources said adding that the number could a squadron or less.
A former senior IAF official told defenseworld.net that there is very little chance that the IAF will be able to maintain squadron strength as ‘strategic force’ it considers itself to be by the year end considering that the serviceability of the MiG fleet is in a downward spiral.
Another former IAF officer said that Gripen could also help in developing the Tejas Mark II. However, the Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar on Thursday reviewed the progress of the Tejas programme and is on record expressing confidence that the indigenous fighter aircraft will be able to supplement the dwindling IAF fighter numbers.
Since the Gripen is equipped with the GE 414 engine which is also the engine of choice for the LCA Tejas Mark II, buying the Gripen could give India an advantage of economy of scale.