New Delhi: Swedish defence major Saab is keen to partner with India for the next version of LCA Tejas even as it has offered its own newly-launched Gripen E fighter aircraft under 'Make in India' initiative, but with over 49 per cent stake in a joint venture with a private firm.
Based on a Request for Information released by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the makers of Tejas, Saab is in talks with them to finalise the latest avionics and radar system for the Tejas 1A, the version of the indigenous plane that the IAF is interested in.
"Yes, we are in talks with HAL. We have the latest avionics, best active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and technology in the Gripen which we would be happy to share with HAL for the Tejas programme," Jan Widerstrom, Chairman Saab India, said.
He argued that it will be a win-win situation if the Indian Air Force (IAF) decides to get Gripen also.
"From a user perspective, maintenance, knowledge build up and Make in India, this will have lot of advantages," he said. Asked if the offer to help the Tejas programme was conditional to IAF selecting Gripen, he said both are independent programmes.
He also made it clear that Saab is looking at more than the automatic limit of 49 per cent FDI in defence in the joint venture that will make Gripen in India.
Under the rules, a company can seek even 100 per cent FDI if it brings in high-technology under the 'Make in India' initiative.
Even though India has scrapped the earlier multi-billion contract for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme and decided to go in for only 36 Rafales, the government will select at least one more aircraft besides Tejas to be built in India.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said that India will decide between American F-18, French Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Gripen by the end of this fiscal.
Incidentally, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha visited the Saab facility in Sweden last week and even flew the Gripen.
"Our concept of technology transfer is real as we are willing to give India comprehensive systems and software control. In short, Saab is not only looking at setting up a base here but also helping in the development of aerospace capability for many more years to come," Widerstrom said. He added that Saab will not simply move an assembly line but will build development capability.
"We will design, develop, produce and maintain in India," he said.