Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has opened talks with Saab to partner it on improving the Indian-made Light Combat Aircraft also called Tejas.
Indian news agency PTI said quoting unnamed defence sources that a high-level team from Saab will arrive in India next week to carry forward the discussion.
"India needs about 300 aircraft of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) type. Saab's Gripen is a good fighter jet and hence exploratory talks are on to see if they can be a technical collaborator for the upgraded Tejas," PTI said quoting the sources.The Defence Ministry has set 2018 deadline for making the first upgraded Tejas aircraft.
HAL, manufacturer of Tejas, is likely to hand over the fourth aircraft to the Air Force by June end. The four aircraft will make up for the first squadron of IAF which will be used for training.
To speed up induction of the Tejas, the Indian MoD has decided to upgrade the aircraft with over 40 modifications. Saab’s help would be needed in ensuring these modifications pass IAF’s tests.
IAF currently plans to acquire 120 Tejas aircraft, with 100 of these having major modifications. The force wants Active Electrically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, mid-air refueling capacity and beyond the vision range missiles.
As per the production plan, six aircraft will be made this year (2015-16) and HAL will subsequently scale it up to eight and 16 aircraft per year.
Saab has offered to manufacture its Gripen E fighter, scheduled be rolled out next month in India. The aircraft is said to be the latest iteration of the venerable fighter aircraft with major upgrades to its radar, communications, weapons firing and range.