SAAB Comes To India Sans Its Gripen Fighter Jets; Will Equip Indian Army With Deadly M4 Recoilless Rifles

Swedish defense giant, Saab, announced on September 27 that it would build a plant in India to produce its Carl-Gustaf M4 weapon system, marking the first time it will be manufactured outside Sweden. 

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Senior Vice President Gorgen Johansson informed reporters at a news conference that the facility will start production in 2024. However, he declined to go into further detail regarding the potential investment the business will make in the facility.

“This is the first time we will be setting up a manufacturing facility for this outside Sweden,” said Gorgen Johansson, senior vice-president, SAAB, in an interaction with the media. “We will transfer the technology to India. The first product will roll out in 2024,” he added.

Johansson stated that they have not yet received official authorization from the government for the new business. He also noted that there will be competition for the new facility’s location, which has not yet been chosen.

The Carl-Gustaf M4 recoilless rifle is a man-portable, multi-role weapon system. It is intended to offer troops the tactical edge in any battle scenario, including eliminating armored tanks, enemy troops in defilade, removing obstacles, and engaging enemies in structures.

The system is flexible and adaptable and is constantly evolving to meet the demands of users and the market, according to the company. The Indian armed forces have already ordered this system.

According to Johansson, the business will first fulfill the needs of the Indian armed forces before considering exporting the subsystems to Sweden, where they will enter the global supply chain.

An entirely new Saab-owned subsidiary, Saab FFV India Pvt. Ltd., will handle the manufacturing in India. The company also said that the new factory would cooperate with Indian sub-suppliers to meet the “Make in India” requirements and create jobs. 

The Indian Army has been employing the famed Carl-Gustaf since 1976; the Mk2 and Mk3 models are currently in use. The US has also recently given the contract to Saab to produce and deliver Carl-Gustaf ammunition for its armed forces. 

Carl-Gustaf M4
Carl-Gustaf M4

In response to inquiries about whether shipments to third countries would meet with Indian export license regulations, Johansson stated that they would. However, he added that Sweden would provide the end-user certificate for exports to third nations.

Under a partnership with Saab, the formerly Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was producing the Carl-Gustaf M3 with a range of up to 1,200 meters. “Manufacturing under that understanding will continue,” Johansson said. 

Saab would keep working with Munitions India Limited (MIL) and Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWEIL) to produce the Carl-Gustaf weapon and its ammo. The MIL and AWEIL were formed after the Indian government dissolved the OFB. 

The Swedish firm also said that they might potentially employ the ordnance factory supply chain for the new manufacturing setup. The M4 weapon system, essential technologies such as carbon fiber wrapping for the M3 and M4, the brand new Fire Control Device released this year, and the M3 barrel assembly will all be part of the new manufacturing setup. 

Johansson explained that the decision was made because they required greater production capacity and that, over time, all components of the Mk4 would be built in India. 

Saab Gripen For India

The Indian Air Force intends to purchase 114 fighter planes under the MMRCA 2.0 program. And Saab has been actively promoting its Gripen fighter aircraft for this contract. While it is a capable fighter plane, it doesn’t appear to be the front-runner. 

The Gripen fighter aircraft also took part in the MMRCA deal when the Indian Air Force was initially looking for 126 fighters. The service did, however, ultimately opt to purchase 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition. 

Nevertheless, the corporation hopes to win the MMRCA 2.0, for which it is actively lobbying and making attractive proposals. Given the difficulties the business has had selling its fighter jet to other nations, this contract has greater significance for the Swedish firm.  

Hungarian Gripen
File Image: Jas-39 Gripen Jets

Nearly eight years have passed since the last sale of the fighter. The company’s previous export order was the $5.44 billion deal finalized in 2014 to equip the Brazilian Air Force with 36 Gripen fighters. 

Peter Hultqvist, the defense minister of Sweden, urged the Indian government in June 2021 to purchase the new Swedish fighter jet, underlining that his government “100% supported” the deal. 

According to a comprehensive pre-tender proposal for 114 fighter planes, the Gripen E single-engine fighter from SAAB is being offered for half the price India paid for the Rafale.

Overall, the business appears to be highly interested in the Indian defense market, evident by its latest decision.