Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist will arrive here tomorrow on a four-day visit during which he is expected to offer Gripen NG fighter aircraft or a possible joint collaboration in manufacturing single engine light combat planes.
Hultqvist, who will arrive tomorrow night, will also visit the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Bharat Electronics Limitedunits in Bengaluru.
He is scheduled to hold talks with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on June 10. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had in April said his government was in talks with Swedish defence company Saab Group to set up a production unit in his state.
During his trip to that country, Fadnavis had tweeted a photo of himself in the cockpit of a Gripen and said “it was great to be at the aerospace and defence company Saab at Linkoping, Sweden. Promised a defence manufacturing policy in Maharashtra soon.”
Saab had offered JAS 39 Gripen E light fighter to India when the tender for Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft was announced. The bid was finally won by French firm Dassault Aviation.
Gripen is a far better version of India’s indigenous light combat aircraft Tejas which has been in the making for nearly 30 years.
Parrikar has said that Tejas would be replacement of aging MiG-21s. DRDO had a few years back sought Saab’s help in the Mark II version of Tejas.
Saab is likely to insist on a government-to-government (G2G) deal if they step in to assist India in developing and manufacturing a light fighter.
India and Sweden had on June 1 signed several agreements to boost ties and decided to restart the bilateral strategic dialogue besides finding ways for investment by the Nordic country in India’s defence sector under the ambitious ‘Make-in-India’ initiative.
With changed FDI rules and the ‘Make-in-India’ campaign, it is expected that Swedish government would look at India as a manufacturing base.