Ahead of fresh Gripen bid, IAF Chief in Sweden

The fighter aircraft offer is central to the Scandinavian country's bid to revive defence trade with India after the post-Bofors freeze

June 3, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By Saab
During IAF Chief BS Dhanoa's visit, the Swedes are expected to pitch the Gripen strongly as India's best bet for an economical, no-strings attached deal to Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa

IAF Chief is on a four day official visit to Sweden from June 3 to 6 to step up military cooperation with the Scandinavian country.

The visit is significant in the context of Sweden's offer of the Gripen fighter aircraft ahead of the IAF kicking off the procurement of 114 multi-role fighter aircraft, a programme which is being dubbed MMRCA 2 in view of the same field of competition.

Saab's Gripen is being pitched as the 'Independent Choice', with the offer of a no-strings attached deal. Along with the American F-16, it is the cheaper offer from among the competition. Uncertainty on trade issues with the US, after the removal of India from the General System of Preferences, and the threat of sanctions under the CAATSA legislation for India's $5.5 Billion S-400 missile shield deal with Russia.

The Swedish Air Force is the biggest operator of various versions of the Gripen. Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa is scheduled to visit various operational and training units as well as interact with senior functionaries of the Swedish Air Force amongst others, an IAF spokesperson informed in a statement.

The bilateral goodwill visit is on invitation by the Chief of the Swedish Air Force.

"The visit would provide an impetus towards defence cooperation and pave the way for greater interaction and cooperation between the Air Forces. This would also strengthen relationships and enable engagement in productive exchanges between the two Air Forces," the statement added.

Saab's offer for the Gripen is the key to Sweden's effort to revive defence trade with India after the controversy over the Bofors deal of 1986.