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IAF planes flew Gripen formation, is it a done deal for Swedish firm Saab?

There were a few red faces in the Indian Air Force today as the Surya Kiran aerobatics team which performed several heart-stopping mid-air manoeuvres during the Air Force Day celebrations at the Hindon Air Base also, among other air formations, flew what was called the “Gripen formation”.

The Swedish aerospace firm Saab, which manufactures the Gripen fighter planes, is in the running to bag a major contract to provide 100 single-engine fighters to the Indian Air Force and is locked in a direct contest with US defence firm Lockheed Martin, which is currently offering its latest F16 figher jet to IAF. So, the "Gripen formation" performance by the Surya Kiran could not go unnoticed and sparked some speculations.

Responding to the act, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, who was at the function to mark the 85th Anniversary of the Indian Air Force said "it has nothing to with Gripen".

“No, it has got nothing to do with that. It is just an aircraft shape with an canard in the front. It can be Rafale, it can be Gripen, anybody with a canard in front...(even a) Sukhoi-30. They just called it Gripen. It means nothing. Nothing to do with Gripen,” the Air Chief said after consulting one of his fellow officers before replying.

The Indian Air Force is aiming to significantly upgrade its combat capabilities by inducting 100 single-engine fighters in its squadrons. A Request for Information (RFI) document—which essentially collects written information on the capabilities of various bidders—is likely to be issued soon.

Both Lockheed Martin and Saab are offering the latest variants of their respective fighter planes—the F-16 Block 70 and Gripen E, respectively.

Since these fighter planes have to be built by an Indian firm in collaboration with a foreign defence firm, Lockheed Martin has paired up with Tata Group and Saab has tied up with Adani Group to manufacture these planes.


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