Swe­den eye­ing In­dian de­fence mar­ket

Swe­den has a very am­bi­tious plan to widen its foot­print in In­dian de­fence mar­ket and the Swedish De­fence Min­is­ter has ac­cord­ingly dis­cussed these is­sues in de­tail with In­dian De­fence Min­is­ter and has also in­vited Manohar Par­rikar to visit Swe­den to have a

SP's MAI - - MILITARY REPORT - [ By Ranjeet Ku­mar ]

The Swedes are show­ing their ea­ger­ness to mend fences with In­dia. Af­ter mud­dling their fin­gers in the In­dian mar­ket in mid-1980s, the Swedes have de­cided to re­pair their frac­tured re­la­tion­ship in de­fence sec­tor with In­dia. The prospec­tive In­dian mar­ket of $250 bil­lion over the next decade have forced a re­think on re­viv­ing their de­fence and diplo­matic re­la­tion­ship with In­dia. Hence the Swedish Gov­ern­ment in­vited Pres­i­dent Pranab Mukherjee to Swe­den in the first week of June and a week later the Swedish De­fence Min­is­ter him­self vis­ited New Delhi and Ben­galuru.

The Swedes have an eye on In­dia’s un­fin­ished busi­ness of ac­quir­ing more fighter squadrons. The In­dian Air Force (IAF) will be get­ting only 36 French Rafale fight­ers, but rest of the 90 fight­ers un­der the 126 MMRCA (medium multi-role com­bat air­craft) ten­der is yet to be com­pleted. Though ad­di­tional fight­ers are not to be ac­quired un­der the MMRCA ten­der, the Swedes have of­fered to set up an en­tire Saab pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in the state of Ma­ha­rasthra, for which the Ma­ha­rash­tra Gov­ern­ment is al­ready look­ing for land. The Ma­ha­rash­tra Chief Min­is­ter Deven­dra Phad­navis had said ear­lier that his gov­ern­ment was in talks with the Swedish com­pany Saab to set up a pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in the state. The Swedish De­fence Min­is­ter Peter Hultqvist met the In­dian De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar on June 10 and dis­cussed in length the var­i­ous in­vest­ment pro­pos­als by the Swedish de­fence com­pa­nies. The Swedes are not new to In­dian de­fence mar­ket. Af­ter the meet­ing be­tween Swedish De­fence Min­is­ter Hultqvist and In­dian De­fence Min­is­ter Par­rikar, the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) is­sued a short press re­lease stat­ing that both sides dis­cussed is­sues of mu­tual in­ter­ests con­cern­ing bi­lat­eral de­fence co­op­er­a­tion and re­gional se­cu­rity sce­nario. Both sides ex­changed views on ris­ing scourge of ter­ror­ism and agreed to co­op­er­ate in this re­gard. The is­sue of coop-

er­a­tion of Swedish firms in de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing un­der the ‘Make in In­dia’ ini­tia­tive was also dis­cussed by both sides. They also agreed to con­tinue to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties be­tween de­fence es­tab­lish­ments of both sides in mu­tu­ally agreed ar­eas.

The Swedish De­fence Min­is­ter also went to Ben­galuru where he vis­ited the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL) and Bharat Elec­tron­ics Lim­ited fa­cil­i­ties. Though Saab lost out in the six fighter race for In­dian MMRCA ten­der, it never lost hope and con­tin­ued to dis­cuss with In­dian de­fence of­fi­cials on the pos­si­bil­ity of set­ting up a pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in In­dia. Saab has al­ready pre­sented a busi­ness plan with trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy if In­dian Gov­ern­ment pro­vides land, wa­ter and other nec­es­sary fa­cil­i­ties on pri­or­ity ba­sis. Ma­ha­rash­tra Gov­ern­ment is re­ported to have promised to the Swedish com­pany that once a de­ci­sion was made on set­ting up Gripen fighter plane man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in Ma­ha­rash­tra, the state gov­ern­ment will ex­pe­dite the process. The state Chief Min­is­ter had tweeted af­ter vis­it­ing the Saab fa­cil­ity in Swe­den, “It was great to be at the aerospace and de­fence com­pany Saab at Linkop­ing, Swe­den. Promised a de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing pol­icy in Ma­ha­rash­tra soon”. De­fence Min­is­ter Par­rikar had also in­formed Par­lia­ment in March this year that the light com­bat air­craft’s (LCA) pa­ram­e­ters were bet­ter than for­eign com­peti­tors in terms of thrust and speed. The one air­craft that scored bet­ter was the Swedish Gripen, although it costs much more, he said.

The Chair­man of Saab In­dia Lars-olof Lind­gren had also told a de­fence web­site that he has a ‘Make in In­dia’ plan for the Gripen. Since In­dian Air Force needs 42 squadrons and presently has only 34 squadrons with half of them ob­so­lete MiG se­ries air­crafts, the IAF ur­gently needs to ac­quire more squadrons to fill the widen­ing gap in squadron strength. Since In­dian de­vel­oped LCA is nowhere near the hori­zon, the IAF has told the MoD that gov­ern­ment must plan an early re­place­ment of MiG se­ries air­crafts. The IAF is not sat­is­fied with LCA Mark-1 and has asked the HAL to pro­duce the LCA Mark-2 hav­ing new ad­vanced en­gines with bet­ter thrust ca­pa­bil­ity, but LCA Mark-2 is not ex­pected to roll out be­fore 2021-22. The fifth-gen­er­a­tion Rus­sian fighter also looks to be be­yond the hori­zon. The two sides haven’t yet inked the fi­nal pro­duc­tion sched­ule.

Hence, the IAF has ad­vised the MoD to look for an eas­ier op­tion. The Gripen fight­ers can be ac­quired in large num­bers as it has been billed as the cheap­est op­tion with proven tech­nol­ogy. Only 36 Rafales will not fill the widen­ing gap in the fighter strength of In­dian Air Force. Hence MoD had in­vited ear­lier this year Saab and Rosoboronex­port to of­fer their pro­pos­als on the pur­chase of a light fighter to re­place the MiG-21s.

In­ter­est­ingly Saab is also eye­ing the ` 50,000-crore In­dian Navy re­quire­ment for six sub­marines. Saab has show­cased its new gen­er­a­tion sub­ma­rine A-26 at IMDEX Asia in Sin­ga­pore from May 19-21. Saab has also spe­cialised in a range of de­fence prod­ucts in­clud­ing sys­tems and so­lu­tions, which they are also of­fer­ing to In­dian armed forces. Saab is also look­ing for part­ners in In­dia for man­u­fac­tur­ing them in In­dian ship­yard, ac­cord­ing to In­dian MoD ‘Make in In­dia’ pol­icy. The A-26 Sub­ma­rine was the star at­trac­tion in the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime De­fence Ex­hi­bi­tion and Con­fer­ence at Sin­ga­pore this year. This sub­ma­rine is equipped with AIP tech­nol­ogy which will en­able the war­ship to re­main sub­merged in wa­ter for 18 days.

Saab has al­ready signed a tech­ni­cal part­ner­ship (TCA) agree­ment with the Pi­pavav, pri­vate sec­tor ship­yard, which has been de­clared qual­i­fied by the In­dian Navy as a Com­bat Man­age­ment Sys­tem (CMS) to mod­ernise or re­place war­ships. The TCA signed in Au­gust 2012 will con­tinue an on­go­ing co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two and also cov­ers de­tails about the for­mat for co­op­er­a­tion and rel­e­vant projects. Saab has thus crafted a long-term strat­egy to en­gage with the In­dian armed forces. The two com­pa­nies have also formed the Com­bat Sys­tems En­gi­neer­ing Group, which analy­ses naval com­bat sys­tems de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture. They are also ex­plor­ing the next-gen­er­a­tion com­bat man­age­ment sys­tem for the In­dian Navy.

Two years ago Saab was awarded a ` 1,900-crore or­der from In­dia to sup­ply self-pro­tec­tion sys­tems for Dhruv ad­vanced light he­li­copter. The or­der was placed by the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Ltd for the IAF. In March this year Saab has also en­tered into a part­ner­ship agree­ment with Re­liance De­fence of In­dia for pro­duc­ing ad­vanced sys­tems for In­dian armed forces. Re­liance wants to bid for the ship­borne UAV pro­gramme of the In­dian Navy, val­ued around ` 10 bil­lion. This agree­ment will al­low Euro­pean de­fence man­u­fac­turer to en­ter the emerg­ing In­dian UAV mar­ket, which is dom­i­nated by the Is­raeli com­pa­nies.

Swe­den thus has a very am­bi­tious plan to widen its foot­print in In­dian de­fence mar­ket and the Swedish De­fence Min­is­ter has ac­cord­ingly dis­cussed these is­sues in de­tail with In­dian De­fence Min­is­ter and has also in­vited Par­rikar to visit Swe­den to have a glimpse of the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Swedish de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

The Swedish De­fence Min­is­ter Peter Hultqvist pay­ing homage at Amar Jawan Jy­oti, in New Delhi on June 10, 2015

Saab re­ceives fol­low-on or­ders for self-pro­tec­tion sys­tems for Dhruv he­li­copter; (right) New-gen­er­a­tion sub­ma­rine A26

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