Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More than Gripen - Interview with Saab India Chief Mr. Inderjit Sial

SOURCE INDIA DEFENCE.COM  In the Indian defense community, Saab is most well known and often discussed for its offering in the Indian Air Force M-MRCA competition -- The Gripen Fighter Jet. But Saab's involvement in Indian defense goes much deeper than that.

Vishal Kansagra gets an opportunity to talk to Mr. Inderjit Sial, Country Head for Saab and understand the Swedish defense major's vision for India in the years to come.

Vishal Kansagra: Recently SAAB won a contract for coastal surveillance system. What is the contract value and expected duration?
Inderjit Sial: It is a $16 million contract awarded to SAAB by Director General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL). Estimated duration of entire project would be 18 months.

Vishal Kansagra: Do you have a local partner for executing this contract?
Inderjit Sial: We are executing this contract jointly with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

Vishal Kansagra: SAAB is a strong company when it comes to EW systems. Give us a brief idea about such systems on offer to Indian armed forces.
Inderjit Sial: We have already supplied Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS) for HAL Dhruv. IDAS will provide Dhruv with EW self protection capability enhancing survivability in battlefield. In addition to Dhruv, IADS is installed on wide range of helicopters including Denel Rooivalk and Oryx, NH Industries NH90, Agusta Westland Super Lynx 300 and A109, Boeing CH47 Chinook, Eurocopter Cougar and Super Puma.

SAAB has offered to supply Land Electronic Defense System (LEDS) for T-90S upgrade program. LEDS is an active protection system available in hard-kill and soft-kill variants for land vehicles and provides enhanced defense against wide range of threats. It would increase survivability of vehicles against a wide range of threats including anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).

Vishal Kansagra: What about Link-S? Will it be offered as an upgrade to existing IAF/IN aircrafts?
Inderjit Sial: It might be offered in future depending on customer requirements.

Vishal Kansagra: Brief about VHFWDL Weapon Data Link network.
Inderjit Sial: It will be offered in near future.

Vishal Kansagra: AIRTRACER FLEX is an interesting product. Does it come as a single module or as a package with associated ELINT and COMINT sensors?
Inderjit Sial: AIRTRACER FLEX is offered as a complete package with ELINT and COMINT sensors.

Vishal Kansagra: Has it been offered to India?
Inderjit Sial: AIRTRACER FLEX is not offered to India right now, but depending on customer requirement, it might be offered in future.

Vishal Kansagra: Any plans to offer Erieye AEW&C mission system or SAAB 2000 Erieye system to IAF?
Inderjit Sial: We have not offered any of these systems.

Vishal Kansagra: Are you extending support for indigenous AEW&C system being developed by Center for Airborne Systems (CABS)?
Inderjit Sial: We have not been approached by them. But we are in talks with ADA for supporting LCA Mark.2.

Vishal Kansagra: India has a vast coastline. During peacetime Coast Guard is responsible for its security. As you might be aware, Coast Guard lacks aircrafts with long range and performance. Any plans to offer SAAB 340 MSA to them?
Inderjit Sial: We have already made a presentation to Coast Guard for SAAB 340 MSA as a contender for Mid-Tier Maritime Patrol (MTMP) aircraft program and are waiting for further updates from them.

Vishal Kansagra: Any plans to offer SAAB 2000 MPA to Indian Navy?
Inderjit Sial: Yes. We have offered SAAB 2000 MPA to Indian Navy under medium-range maritime reconnaissance (MRMR) program.

Vishal Kansagra: Which products will you focus on during AI 11?
Inderjit Sial: SAAB will showcase a wide range of its products at Aero India 2011. Show highlights would be RBS-70 MANPADS and simulator, RBS-15 Mk.3 air-to-surface missile, Giraffe and ARTHUR radar systems, SAAB 340 MSA, SAAB 2000 MPA, BEL, EW systems, camouflage equipment and various other systems.

Vishal Kansagra: Any plans to pitch Giraffe/Sea Giraffe AMB to Indian armed forces?
Inderjit Sial: Absolutely. We have formed a JV with BEL for production and marketing of Giraffe/Sea Giraffe AMB. In addition to Giraffe we also offer ARTHUR.

Vishal Kansagra: What missile systems are being on offer to India?
Inderjit Sial: Keeping customer requirements in mind, RBS-70 MANPAD and RBS-15 Mk3 air-to-surface missile are being offered currently.

Vishal Kansagra: Any plans to offer Taurus 350 KEPD?
Inderjit Sial: We don’t see a requirement for this class of weapon right now, but we might offer it in future.

Vishal Kansagra: What about financing solutions for purchase?
Inderjit Sial: We customize various solutions depending on needs of the customer. For instance we have got support from Swedish government to transfer some Gripens from Swedish Air Force in case Gripen is selected in MMRCA competition. This will reduce the time to build up numbers in IAF and will fast track training.

Vishal Kansagra: Let us talk about offsets. Have you tied up with any Indian company to take care of offsets?
Inderjit Sial: We understand how important offsets are. And keeping that in mind we have tied up with Indian companies from various domains.

Vishal Kansagra: Which are the companies you have tied up with?
Inderjit Sial: As of now we have tied up with Mahindra Aerospace Pvt. Ltd, Mahindra Satyam, Wipro, BEL, HAL and Samtel. Depending on the situation we might tie up with other local companies too.

Vishal Kansagra: What about compulsions in Swedish policy for offsets?
Inderjit Sial: Our offset policies are meant to infuse technologies into local industry rather than just fulfill offset obligations. This approach not only gives a boost to local industry but also reduces the overall cost of our products. Swedish government has cleared us to offer latest technology we have without waiting for any approvals. South Africa would be a good case study. After South Africa purchased Gripen, we went in and purchased couple of companies. We revamped the South African defence industry on a large scale. They became so strong that now they are exporting various systems. In fact IDAS of HAL Dhruv is developed and produced by Saab Avitronics in Centurion, South Africa.

Our method of executing offset obligations not only strengthens local industry, but also provides local support. As Gripen tagline goes, SAAB is really an 'Independent Choice'.

Vishal Kansagra: What about Swedish foreign policy about not selling weapons to countries involved in conflict?
Inderjit Sial: Sweden is a neutral country like India and Swedish foreign policy is very clear about regions involved in conflict. We have a very smooth working relationship with various entities in India. As of now India is not involved in any conflict hence I would not speculate.

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