SAAB Gripen readies its pitch for $10 bln MMRCA deal

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New Delhi, Mar 12 (UNI) The technical and technology transfer bids for one of the biggest-ever fighter deals of recent times in the form of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) worth an estimated 10 billion dollars is due for delivery by April and SAAB Gripen said it would soon submit its proposals to the government.

''We are looking at the Indian market and the Request for Proposal (RFP) will be submitted to government by the due date in April,'' said SAAB Chairman Marcus Wallenberg.

India issued the RFP for the MMRCA last August and the main contenders are the Boeing F/A-18, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16, MiG-35 and Saab Gripen.

Mr Wallenberg added that the company has zeroed in on a location to set up a plant in the country, but declined to give specifics.

However, it is widely believed that any such plant will come up in Bangalore. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) manufactures most of its products in the state.

SEB Senior Vice President Erik Belfarge said the contract was a 'big deal' for the company and would involve many local partners.

''We recognize the need to have as many partners as possible because of the offset clause and we are comfortable with the idea of technology transfer,'' Mr Belfarge said.

The MMRCA agreement includes a 50 per cent offset clause, according to which the foreign firm will have to plough back half of the contractual amount, or about 5 billion dollars (Rs 20,000 crore), to buy components from the Indian market.

Two years ago, the Indian government published a new Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) covering offsets, but the new DPP to be unveiled by April is expected to be ''more transparent and user-friendly''.

Indian Air Force Chief Fali Homi Major said big foreign defense companies should codesign, develop and produce in India, taking advantage of ''our low cost and abundant talent.'' UNI PBB BJR HS1127

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