Saab, Tata to Develop Fighter Jet

The $12 billion deal involves developing a variant of the Gripen fighter

Saab said on Feb. 9 it had tied up with India's Tata group to develop a new variant of its Gripen fighter jet as it pitches for a $12 billion deal from New Delhi.

Saab executive Kjell Moller said the tie-up with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) was not only aimed at jointly developing the Gripen but also at getting a chance at the biggest fighter jet deal in the world in years.

The Swedish company is competing with firms from Russia, Europe and the U.S. to sell 126 warplanes to the Indian air force.

India, which will begin trials in April of the shortlisted jets including the Gripen, has said it will buy about two dozen units in flyaway condition and manufacture the remaining 100 or so planes at a local state-run facility here.

"We will transfer technology and competencies to TCS, which will play a key role in the development of the next-generation Gripen and other products," Moller said ahead of the air show this week in Bangalore. The contract will continue irrespective of us getting the Indian order.

Lockheed Martin's F-16 and Boeing's F-18 Superhornet have emerged as the front-runners for the Indian contract, industry sources said.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) has offered its Typhoon Eurofighter and France's Dassault, which makes the Mirage, has put forward its Rafale.

Russian manufacturers of the MiG-35 and MiG-29 are also in the race along with Saab.

The Indian air force -- the fourth largest in the world -- has 51 Mirage-2000 war planes made by Dassault with electronics from Thales that need a major upgrade.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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