As India continues to hunt for a multirole fighter aircraft to augment its fighter jet squadrons, Russian state arms seller Rosoboronexport and Swedish manufacturer Saab Gripen are attempting to woo the Indian Air Force by displaying its fighters at Aero India 2023.
The press office of the Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport announced that Russia would display the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57E fighter jet and the Checkmate light tactical fighter at the Air Expo, TASS reported.
“Rosoboronexport will feature about 200 types of the most advanced Russian-made armaments and military hardware, including the Su-57E top-notch fifth-generation multirole fighter and the Checkmate light tactical aircraft,” the press office said.
The development is significant as it comes at a time of deepening bilateral relationship between New Delhi and Moscow amid the ongoing Ukraine war.
Earlier, India intended to buy up to 144 of the Su-57 aircraft. However, New Delhi ultimately felt the Su-57 was not aligned with the IAF’s requirements and terminated the agreement.
It is unclear whether Moscow will pitch the Su-57E to India again formally. Nonetheless, the display of the jet is likely to attract the attention of the onlookers, both in India and from other countries taking part in the exhibition.
Su-57E was also displayed at the Zhuhai Air Show in China last year.
In the late 2000s, Russia started working on developing the Su-57, but their efforts were repeatedly unsuccessful. For instance, the airframe developed cracks during a test flight in 2010, which compelled the designers to start over with new composite materials and a better aircraft design.
The program, which was supposed to start serial production in 2017, finally delivered the first aircraft in 2021 after one plane crashed while being tested in 2019. However, despite the difficulties faced in development and testing, Russia is unwavering in its attempts to allure foreign customers for the Su-57 fighter jet.
Besides the Su-57, Moscow is also looking for customers for its brand-new Su-75 Checkmate aircraft. Recent reports have indicated that Russian state-owned enterprise Rostec has expressed willingness to invite India to co-develop the Checkmate fifth-generation fighter jet.
“A delegation of representatives of our aircraft-building companies will attend the Aero India air show. We plan to discuss cooperation in fifth-generation aircraft. In particular, the intention is to invite our Indian partners to join the Checkmate light tactical fighter project,” a source told the Russian news agency TASS.
The display of these advanced Russian fighter jets in the Aero India show comes when India is looking for a suitable aircraft for its Multirole Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) contract. EurAsian Times has a detailed survey story on the MRFA that you can read about here.
Russian fighter jets and the Swedish Gripens are also in the fray. Saab has pitched its most advanced Gripen-E fighter to India once again. The aircraft will also be on display at Aero India 2023.
Saab Gripens For Indian Air Force
On February 9, the Swedish aerospace and defense giant Saab offered its single and two-seater Gripen combat aircraft models to the Indian Air Force, Economic Times reported. The proposal comes as India is yet to select an aircraft for its MRFA contract which experts believe will not be concluded any time soon.
The Gripen E is the “world’s most advanced multirole fighter aircraft,” according to Saab India CMD Mats Palmberg, who stated that the business would showcase these cutting-edge technologies at Aero India.
Palmberg announced that Saab would present an array of products and systems from the air, land, and sea domains, including the AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon, Carl-Gustaf weapon systems, and Integrated Defense Aids Suite (IDAS).
The single-seater 4.5-generation aircraft produced by Saab, dubbed the Gripen-E s a top contender for the IAF’s fighter program alongside Lockheed Martin F-21, Boeing F/A-18, Dassault Aviation Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Russian MiG-35.
This may be the first time that India has been offered the two-seat variant of the Saab Gripen-E, which the company exclusively manufactured for the Brazilian Air Force in 2020. Palmberg said, “We are offering India both the single-seater and two-seater Gripen aircraft.”
Palmberg made a strong appeal by emphasizing that the Gripen E is a decade ahead of other fighters in terms of operational performance, networked warfare capabilities, improved sensor fusion, special BVR (beyond visual range) features, and a capacity to adapt to new threats.
“It is a true game changer. It is the best option. The Saab offer for the Indian Air Force also combines cost efficiency with the true transfer of technology and a comprehensive industrial partnership,” he said.
Earlier, in 2021, Sweden made a bid to sell its SAAB Gripen fighter jets to the Indian Air Force. At the time, the then defense minister Peter Hultqvist also made a persuasive case for the Swedish fighter jet to the Indian government, claiming that the offer was “100% supported” by the country.
SAAB has been lobbying to get India’s attention since the IAF issued a tender to acquire 114 Multirole Fighter Aircraft to replace its old MiG fighters and make up the numbers in its depleting squadrons.
However, Saab’s association with New Delhi is not new. Earlier, in 2017, a joint venture between Saab and Adani Group was firmed up with an eye on the MRFA tender that was not launched back then. However, this JV came to an abrupt end in 2019.
The new offer made to the Indian Air Force makes it evident that the Swedish manufacturer is unrelenting and is aggressively pushing its most advanced fighter jet despite severing setbacks in other global fighter contracts in recent months.
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