Saab has offered to jointly develop a naval version of its fighter jet Gripen with transfer of technology.
“We have a great opportunity for technology transfer,” said Ulf Nilsson, head of Saab aeronautics division was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India Sunday.
At present, the Defence Research and Development Organization is developing the naval version of the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas.
On who will pay for the cost of developing the naval version of the Gripen, Nilsson said, “There is a cost for everything. But you can always talk about different investment schemes. If you see there are other potential customers...you can do it jointly with Brazil. Thailand is also a potential customer for Sea Gripen”.
While the Indian Navy supports the naval version of the indigenously developed LCA Tejas, it is concerned about uncertainty over the commitment of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to the LCA Mk2 fighters. This project has run into delay, and is also the basis for the naval LCA.
The IAF recently announced orders for 120 LCAs, with three modifications to the existing version of Tejas, which are below the LCA Mk2 standard.
Admiral R.K. Dhowan recently said the navy was committed to the project, and will have to see that the LCA Mk2 meets the force’s requirements in totality. The navy is likely to commission aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, under construction in Cochin, in 2018.
However, it is not clear if the naval LCA will be ready by then. Saab said it has already done a feasibility study, and has identified the modifications needed in the Gripen to create a naval version. But the biggest drawback for Saab is that Sweden does not have an aircraft carrier, and hence development of even a prototype is a problem.