Hello defence lovers! Recently according to some media reports, Swedish aerospace giant SAAB has offered the Indian airforce JAS 39 Gripen at half the price of a Dassault Rafale. SAAB group is pitching hard to sell its fighters to the Indian airforce, but all the efforts are in vain. In this article, we are going to discuss why the probability that the Indian airforce will pick JAS 39 Grippen over the other competitors in MMRCA 2.0 is as good as negligible.
JAS 39 Gripen
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab AB. The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with a relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls.
Gripen was developed to replace ageing the JAS 37 Viggen and JAS 35 Draken fighters of the Swedish air force. Today along with the Swedish airforce, Gripen severe the Brazilian air force, South African airforce, Czech air force and the Royal Thai airforce.
It is powered by the Volvo RM 12 engine which is a derivative of the American GE f404 engine. We will later talk about this fact in details.
When the Indian airforce purchases any equipment, it becomes the brand ambassador of that product. The world sees what the world’s fourth-largest airforce is inducting into its service. Since IAF inducted Rafale, it nearly became an export success. Following India’s purchase, the United Arab Emirates has also ordered 80 Rafales from France. SAAB is eyeing such an export success for its Gripen through the Indian Airforce. That’s why it is pitching Gripen to the IAF so aggressively. Gripen as a product might be very good but we will discuss the reasons why the Indian airforce won’t induct these machines into its service. There are three main reasons. let’s discuss them in detail.
The Rafale Factor
As we have discussed countless times earlier, going for follow on orders for Rafale makes greater sense for the Indian airforce. Since IAF and the government of India have invested heavily in the infrastructure required for Rafale and the India-specific enhancements, purchasing for rafale in the MMRCA 2.0 will be a practically feasible decision. Moreover buying new rafales will be less time-consuming as pilots are already trained on Rafale, logistically easy, and of course a cheaper. We earlier had the advantage of moving the production line of Rafale to India, but now after UAE signed a deal for 80 rafales, it seems to be difficult.
The Tejas Factor
Now, let us discuss the next prominent reason, the Tejas Factor. India’s indigenously built Tejas is of the same category as that of JAS 39 Gripen. Both the fighters use the versions of GE f404 engines as powerplants. Moreover, IAF has already placed orders for 83 Tejas MK1A fighters. Tejas is comparatively a newer platform compared to Gripen and hence is much more susceptible to newer technologies compared to Gripen. Tejas MK II is also is in the pipeline. Thus if the Indian Airforce needs a single-engine fighter, Tejas and Tejas MK II will be the perfect choices, not Gripen.
The General Electric Problem
Now let us discuss the most significant reason, the general electric problem. In 1978, under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi[source], the Indian government had finalized a deal with SAB to procure the JAS 37 Viggen. However, the deal was blocked by America as it imposed an embargo over the derivatives of American engines used in Viggen. The Jaguars in the Indian Airforce which are operational even today were purchased instead of Viggen. Now, even after three decades, the story remains almost the same. American competitors- Lockheed Martin’s F 21 and Boeing’s f/A 18 super hornets are competing in the very same competition which the Gripen is willing to win. As we have discussed earlier, Gripen uses Volvo RM 12 which is a derivative of the American GE F404 engine. Keeping all odds against Gripen aside, let us assume if Gripen is selected over F-21. Will the USA ever let that happen? The history will repeat itself. The USA will definitely impose an embargo on the engines.
Thus we can conclude that there are negligible chances that India will go for Gripen in its MMRCA 2.0 program. SAAB should persuade its other potential customers, not the Indian Airforce.