Vayu interview with Ola Rignell, CMD, Saab India

Vayu : Saab is one of the global companies shortlisted to meet the Indian Air Force’s requirement for future fighters, with the Gripen E as a strong contender. Kindly update our readers on status of this programme and as to when the first aircraft are being delivered to the Swedish Air Force.

Ola Rignell : Gripen E/F is part of the Gripen E-series and a new fighter aircraft system. The second Gripen E test aircraft, designated 39-9 has also made its maiden flight on 26 November 2018.  Gripen E has successfully fired the IRIS-T air-to-air missile and completed the first tests to verify the ability to release external payloads by jettisoning one external fuel drop tank. The aircraft has also completed the first flight armed with the MBDA Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).  Saab remains on track to deliver the first series production units of its Gripen E by the end of the current year.

Vayu : The Brazilian Air Force are to also receive their first Gripen Es in the near future even as preparations are ongoing for production of this aircraft type in Brazil. Meanwhile, what is the timeline for development of the two-seater Gripen F ?

Ola Rignell : The development of the two-seat Gripen was closely connected with the Brazilian industry, with Embraer leading the development. A cumulative effort by Embraer, Saab and other companies that are benefitting from the technology transfer project, are developing the two-seat fighter with Sweden. The two-seat version of the Gripen NG is being developed at the Gripen Design and Development Network (GDDN), which was inaugurated in November 2016, in the state of São Paulo. In 2024 the last jet fighter will be delivered to the Brazilian Air Force, but the partnership between Saab and Brazil is expected to go on for a long time through a wide-ranging technology transfer that will enable Brazil to develop, produce and maintain supersonic jet fighters. 

Vayu : As part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative, Saab has identified a number of Indian companies for collaboration in various areas including software development. Kindly enumerate on these.  

Ola Rignell : Saab is looking at the Indian Industry as our potential partner in product development for the world market. We believe that the Indian Industry has the necessary capability and can absorb the state of the art technology for manufacturing world class products.  

Our plans in India are based not just on selling products but on creating a defence eco-system which would involve hundreds of Tier 1, 2 and 3 partners, vendors and suppliers. Saab would incubate partnerships between its global supply chain and Indian suppliers. Saab would also foster R&D partnerships for next-generation platform, system and sub-system design and development across the industry. 

Saab is also working with many suppliers in India, including CIM Tools, Tata Advanced Material Limited and Aequs (former QUEST Global Manufacturing).These companies play a very valuable role in helping Saab develop, industrialise and manufacture complex airframe assemblies for Airbus and Boeing. Our joint venture with Aequs manufactures and supplies assemblies for the global commercial aero structures market.

Vayu : Is Saab’s Deployable Aircraft Maintenance (DAM) Facility designed specifically for the Gripen or can this be adopted for other combat aircraft as well?   

Ola Rignell : Saab Deployable Aircraft Maintenance Facility combines a First Line Maintenance Hangar for storage, protection and maintenance of the aircraft, Maintenance Containers furnished as workshops and storage facilities and integrated Barracuda multispectral camouflage protection. It is rapidly deployed, enabling flexibility and mobility. The rigid design and compliance with NATO environmental standards facilitates operation in the toughest of climates. The Deployable Aircraft Maintenance (DAM) can be adopted by any combat aircraft. 

Vayu : The Swordfish MPA has been getting very encouraging responses from various countries. The Indian Navy too has an identified requirement for such advance systems : are detailed presentations planned on the system in the near future ?

Ola Rignell : There is no ongoing conversation on Maritime Patrol Aircraft with Indian Navy.  

Vayu : Saab have been are engaged in supply of electronic warfare (EW) self-protection system for the HAL Dhruv ALH and the same could be integrated with the new light combat helicopter (LCH).  Which fixed-wing aircraft types could also be considered for the IDAS?

Ola Rignell : Saab is providing the Integrated Defence Aid Suite (IDAS) for both the Indian Air Force and Army Aviation Corps variants of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). IDAS is a fully integrated multi spectral warning system designed for self-protection of airborne platforms.  IDAS combines radar -, laser - and missile approach warning functionality integrated with a countermeasure dispensing (CMD) capability for the deployment of chaff and flare decoys. 

On the ALH, IDAS is integrated with an Indian designed and manufactured CMD system. IDAS is supported by a dedicated mission planning tool known as the Threat Library Management System (TLMS). The supply of IDAS equipment for ALH is currently in full series production. Saab is also providing a comprehensive transfer of technology (ToT) to HAL for in-country maintenance and repair of the IDAS system in India, with the scope of expanding into full production in the near future. 

We will reply to request from the Indian Air Force on a case to case basis for fixed wing air crafts but in general our system could be fitted to almost any fixed wing aircraft available today.

Vayu : The Carl-Gustaf antitank rocket system is in widespread use with the Indian Army;  is the latest M4 version being offered for supply and manufacture in India ?    

Ola Rignell : The Indian Armed Forces are one of the biggest and most experienced users of the Carl-Gustaf weapon system, and today they are operating the Carl-Gustaf M3 version. Through FFV Ordnance, part of the Saab Group, the Indian Armed Forces has been offered the Carl-Gustaf M4.

Today’s dismounted infantry face a broader range of battlefield challenges than ever before. Having a single weapon for all situations increases their tactical flexibility and reduces the amount of equipment that they carry. The new Carl-Gustaf M4 version has all the effectiveness and versatility of the Carl-Gustaf M3 system but its improved, lightweight design (weighing less than 7 kg) offers significant mobility improvements to the soldier. Capabilities much needed for soldiers operating in challenging environments. The M4 enables soldiers to deal with any tactical situation – from neutralising armoured tanks or enemy troops in defilade, to clearing obstacles and engaging enemies in buildings. We have showcased the M4 version to the Indian Army as well and you will be able to see it in our stand during Aero India.

Vayu : What is the interest in India of Saab’s Digital Air Traffic Solutions especially for remote airfields which is very pertinent in context light of India’s expanding regional air services under the UDAN Scheme.  

Ola Rignell : Saab and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to research a pan-Indian Air Traffic Management Automation System for airports to be included in India’s UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme. The MoU with Saab will support AAI’s need for ATM solutions and training of its personnel in ATM services. In addition, Saab is offering its Remote Tower for providing Air Traffic Management Solutions in far flung areas. The Remote Tower product suite includes high-definition cameras and pan-tilt-zoom cameras, surveillance and meteorological sensors, microphones, signal light guns and other devices for deployment at the airport. 

Vayu : Kindly give us a preview of Saab’s displays at Aero India 2019 and the message the company would like to convey.  

Ola Rignell : At the Saab stand, there are dedicated displays and augmented reality exhibits showcasing our key products & systems. We are exhibiting our cutting-edge technologies and capabilities in aviation systems, ground combat systems, electronic warfare and naval systems - solutions that demonstrate our long and successful track record in developing ground-breaking technologies and pioneering innovations. Some of the products on display include Gripen E and Weapons System, Gripen Maritime, Integrated Defence Aids Suite (IDAS), Digital Tower Management Solutions, Ground Combat System, Land Electronic Defence System (LEDS) 50Mk2, Next Generation Radar Systems, including GaN based (Gallium Nitride) Saab AESA Fighter Radar and the truly multi-role Globaleye AEW &C aircraft with ERIEYE-ER radar, GIRAFFE 1X and Saab’s portfolio of Signature Management Systems.