A joint venture between Swedish defence giant Saab and the Adani group is looking at producing a portfolio of products, including unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters for the Indian armed forces. The JV is also eyeing a billion-dollar deal for supplying fighter jets to the Indian Air Force.
Asish Rajvanshi, head of the Adani Group’s Defence and Aerospace division, said the joint venture was focusing on developing “foundational capabilities” to produce a wide-range of products in the aerospace sector for the domestic as well as export markets.
In September, Saab and the Adani Group had announced a collaboration in defence manufacturing entailing billions of dollars of investment and said the joint venture would produce Gripen military jets in India if it won the single-engine aircraft deal.
Chairman and Managing Director of Saab Group's India operation Jan Widerstrom too said the JV was not only eyeing the lucrative fighter jet deal but also looking at other areas.
Rajvanshi and Widerstrom said the joint venture was aiming at building unmanned aerial vehicle, military helicopters and various other aerospace components and equipment with a broad focus on developing a world-class ecosystem for the aerospace sector in India.
“If Gripen does not happen, it does not matter. We have started the journey of building foundational capabilities...We will pursue the UAV programme, the helicopter programme,” Rajvanshi told newswire PTI when asked about the future of the JV if it did not get the fighter jet deal.
The government is set to start the process soon for procuring a fleet of single-engine fighters for the IAF and U.S. defence firm Lockheed Martin will be a major competitor for Saab for the deal.
The fighter jets will be produced jointly by a foreign aircraft maker along with an Indian company under the recently launched strategic partnership model which seeks to bring in high-end defence technology to India.
Officials said the request for information, kick-starting the acquisition process, will begin “very soon.”
In May, the government had unveiled the strategic partnership model under which select private firms will collaborate to build military platforms such as submarines and fighter jets in India in partnership with foreign entities.
Widerstrom said Saab was excited about the Indian market and was looking forward to the implementation of the strategic partnership model.
“There is a need to shape it in a way that it focuses on enabling the strategic partner to build up a long term sustainable capability rather than specific business oriented capacity,” he said.
The government has been focusing on strengthening the capability of the IAF.
In September last year, India signed an Euro 7.87- billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for the purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets.
The IAF was keen on a follow-on order of 36 additional Rafales.
The supply of Rafale jets is scheduled to start from September 2019. Sources said the IAF would start receiving a fresh fleet of 36 Sukhoi jets from 2019.