[SIZE=5]Saab Gripen for the MMRCA: AI qns
[/SIZE]1. The Swedes were extremely courteous and patient, transferring me to the right person, even if they had to be pulled out of meetings.
2. Reason for Absence:
The guy said, "We're different from the other contenders... so we wanted to show that". We brought 3 last time. This time, we didn't bring.
Anyway, the real reason they didn't bring a Gripen is because they are getting the prototypes ready for the trials, and didn't want to risk bringing them here and suffering faults. Additionally, they said that it is a very short timeline from RFP submission to start of trials, so they were working at double pace to get the components tested. Swedish AF gripens couldnt be spared for the show either.
3. Level of ToT:
100%...unequivocal. The lady in charge of the deal said that that was the level of ToT mentioned in the RFP, and they had to follow it. I asked how they could do that if some of the components were not swedish... what she said is that they do hold certain amount of IPR for a certain period of time. However, the US govt would have to give permission for the ToT. When asked how this would be possible given that US aircraft are also in the fray, the reply was that they would have to see...
Then, there was a slightly long reply to this stating that they could have tried to put in a new engine and non-american stuff, but given the shortage of time, they decided to let it remain, and not take any new risks.
4. The Independent choice??
Given that this was the tagline under which they were (extensively) selling the gripen, how could it be the independent choice if there were american and other components in the type on offer. The reply was that sweden would have control of these, and given that it was not a consortium, IPR and ToT would be extremely simple.
Would Gripen not reduce its performance in terms of hot and humid performance in india as compared to cold and relatively lower altitudes in sweden??
The answer was that both the Thais and the South Africans were using Gripens, and had found no issues. However, the high altitude landing and takeoff performance would need to be seen...
At this point, I pointed out that given that MMRCA was replacing the strike aircraft, and would need to carry heavy payload at high altitudes, would Gripen be able to handle it? The answer was not very sure, but it was that the plane would meet the RFP standards.
6. Weapons fit:
OK... re this bit, the MRCA gripen would be offered with the complete weapons suite that Sweden uses, as well as NATO and European weapons that have been tested till now.
The surest answer that i did here was from this question, regarding whether they'd have issues integrating Russian or Israeli weapons into the Gripen. The answer was that there was absolutely no issues since Sweden held the technology for the weapons fit and integration, and would give it,... they would also help us in integrating any weapons that we chose to use, including not just giving documentation, but actually taking aircraft to their factory and integrating and testing it, and giving us help in this regard. According to the person I spoke to, if it fit the pylons, they'd fit anything for us to use.
The slaving to the sensors and radars of course is slightly more tricky, but they said that given that one of the partners was Swedish and the other british, they didn't foresee too many issues.
7. Upgrade or Downgrades:
The Gripen IN would have zero Downgrades... everything including source codes and weapons codes would be given. In fact, in many respects, there are upgrades, even wrt the NG variant.
Additionally, India would have a stake in future upgrades and developments based on the numbers bought (which should give us a 50% capital stake I think).... the Swedes are very very anxious to partner with us, both in terms of cost and testing, but in terms of future JVs and joint marketing also... one of the persons I spoke to pointed out what the MKI did to Su-30 sales, and said that India would give Gripen a foothold in sales in other countries as well.
As I pointed out, this was an itchy part for all other contenders as well - given the 10,4 bn $ outlay, they still aren't sure whether they can meet (rafale went so far as to say that it wont)...
The Gripen rep said, "I dont know whether we'd be able to meet the budget or not, since we don't knwo the exact budget outlay and we are still analyzing the IN aircraft, and the business model and impact on offsets, but, Let me put it this way - among all the contenders, Gripen will be by far, the most cost effective."
In relation to cost, I asked about what were the advantages that Gripen would have over the other contenders - the point was that at 4000$/flying hour, Gripen would cost less than half the cost of the other contenders, and would give extremely good performance all the same (they again reiterated that there was nowhere that they would not meet RFP standards). However, I mentioned that others could carry more weapons or fuel or sensors - they said that given the RFP methodology, and since they would meet it, they are confident. Additionally, he mentioned that Gripen was not far behind either.
9. India vs Sweden:
I asked whether the two traditions wouldn't be different, given the different sizes and oeprating doctrines. I also pointed out that India was far larger than any of the Gripen's customer countries, and would need to use Gripen for longer ranges and different roles...
The Answer was that the Gripen was suited for all these roles, and given Sweden's international commitments, they had operated Gripens for long ranges as well..... but still a doubtful answer in my mind.
10. Competition to LCA:
A common question i asked all contenders - what does Indian aerospace, esp Tejas have to gain by MMRCA going to you. To Gripen, I added the extra question of whether they were nervous about LCA Mk.2 being almost identical to Gripen IN, and thus ruining its party??
The sense I got from questioning all 4 reps about this separately was that they are indeed quite nervous about the success of LCA, especially over the past few months, and the accelerated weapons testing.... They first tried to say that LCA and Gripen are two very different aircraft in different weight classes meant for different roles, and in fact, India buying Gripen would actually help LCA. I pointed out in each case that the LCA Mk.2 would be almost the same weight as Gripen IN, with similar performance. In this case, the answer still remained the same, but with extra qualifications, such as IAF is looking at MMRCA in different role, and we fit RFP perfectly. There wasn't a direct admission that Tejas and Gripen are the same, but I got close to getting one. The sense was the same.
Coming to how LCA can gain from Gripen, they siad that they are giving full experience with weapons testing, etc, and if selected, they can definitely partner in engine integration - he pointed out that they also tested from F404 to 414, and had all the expertise in taht area and would not hold anything back. Additionally, they also pointed out that the two programs were similar - small, flagship programs for the two nations. Hence, it was important to collaborate, etc etc etc....
Will they be able to come out with an AESA on the test aircraft in time?? The Lady said that AESA is important but the present radar is also very good - tried to say that they;re not sure that IAF asked for AESA specifically (which i'm sure is wrong, from impressions gathered from FH Major and other sources). Anyway, the AESA itself is ready, and will be integrated around the time that the testing is going on, so they do hope to show at least the test aircraft to the team. However, they will show the simulator and the AESA itself.... about ToT on the AESA, she said, we'll see.
Will be followed.. they want to cut down on costs also, so offsets does make a lot of sense. 50% wouldnt be a problem.
Overall, the impression I got was that Gripen is quite confident, and they know their machine is good. However, they are worried about whether the IAF is looking for something like their aircraft, or they are just there as a filler. They are also worried about LCA and competing with it, which is why they are trying to show how Gripen is different from the Tejas. Another worry are the foreign components. They are not concerned about the performance of the aircraft.
I got some booklets for the Saab technology, and the IN brochure, which I have given to Rakall to scan and put up... look out for those for more info also.
I seem to be forgetting something here, but if i remember anything more, I'll add it.