Saturday, October 9, 2010

SAAB optimistic of making it to MMRCA downlist of IAF

CAPE TOWN: As India's biggest defence contract of $ 10 billion to acquire 126 Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) nears final stages, the lone Swedish contender SAAB is optimistic of making it to the downlist.

Expressing optimism, SAAB executives said that their India campaign was enthusing them to enter the lucrative fighter market in the Asian region where many other nations are planning major acquisitions.

The Swedish company executives are hopeful that the Indian Government would shortlist the competitors by December to bring the number of contenders from six to two or three.

The Gripen is in contention with American F-16 and F-18/A Super Hornets, French Rafale, Russian MiG 35 and Eurofighter Typhoon.

The company executives claimed that the Gripen had come through well in Indian flight trials held at Leh and Jaisalmer.

"The trials were a complete success. We are very happy with the trials that went off early 2010. We are looking forward to the next steps and we are hopeful," Eddy de la Motte, Director, Gripen for India, told PTI on the sidelines of the Africa Aerospace and Defence expo 2010.

Gripen, like other five contenders, had undergone trials at Bangalore, Leh and Jaisalmer for performance assessment trials over varying terrain and weather conditions over six months that ended in March-April this year.

La Motte said the Indian Air Force pilots, who tested the 1,320 mile-per-hour jet, were a "really professional team" and the flight evaluation was "very demanding."

Gripen's Campaign Director and Test Pilot Magnus Lewis-Olsson said SAAB was looking forward to winning the Indian contract as it would mean a lot for the company.

"If you win India, that would be a strong signal for the world," he said.

The Gripen fighter aircraft, which is in service in the Swedish and South African Air Force, flew for 12 to 15 hours for eight days and also did single sorties during the trials.

Under the MMRCA deal, India will acquire 126 aircraft in 86 single-seater and 40 twin-engine seat configurations. It plans to procure 18 aircraft in flyaway conditions and produce 106 locally under license through technology transfer.

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