The Indian defence minister has recently made a statement that defence imports will be the last priority. How do you perceive this and what will be your strategy in this context?
We understand this is an aim for India but our belief is that it also will take some time to achieve this goal. Because what we see here is that there are several global procurements for air defence. And we have also been, quite often, approached by Indian companies for the partnerships for the air defence products and we see that as a natural development for more Indian content. The Indian industry is ready to get different products from different companies to build a combined system where we only contribute with parts as missiles or radars and I think it is good. We can, of course, take part in it.
From the programmes, Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) and Short Range Attack (SRSAM) which we are already competing with in the Indian market, we are planning for offset production running here in India and in the future it also includes upgrades for the system. It’s a step by step approach where we bring in some of our products, start offset production in the next round and then the upgrades as well.
Currently what are your partnerships for the Indian companies for the VSHORAD and SRSAM programmes?
We have several partnerships for these programmes. We have teamed with different companies to do the production in India. I would not want to disclose the names of these companies since all these are part of the offset proposals. But, of course, we are in talks with the defence public sector companies like Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) as they are currently taking care of these programmes.
How is your VSHORAD programme advancing at this point of time?
For the VSHORAD programme, the fully-integrated RBS 70 NG, with day and night firing capabilities, has on-going trials in India. This programme is a combined programme for Indian Army, Air Force and the Navy. Indian Army is, of course, the lead customer in the trials. We have been doing trials in various places - we have been at the coast, in the desert, and we are now at the high altitude.
What are the current timelines for the VSHORAD trials?
The trials will continue until this summer. It’s been more than one year. We have been in the trials since May 2012.
You seem to have generated a lot of interest for the RBS 70NG at the Aero India, particularly from the Indian Air Force. Can you give us a brief account into that?
During Aero India we had visitors from both army and air force and we have seen a wide interest for the RBS 70 NG. I agree that the air force is much interested in this because it is an unjammable system. We are one of the three companies which are in the competition and, of course, we hope to win the contract.
How do you think you are going to emerge in the competition for the VSHORAD programme?
It is hard to say at this stage. I think the important difference with India and some other countries is that the trials here are very long in time. This trial for RBS 70 NG and GIRAFFE will take more than a year with people and equipment from our company in India.
What systems are you offering for the SRSAM programme?
For the SRSAM competition, we are competing with our BAMSE system. We are waiting for the technical evaluations committee (TEC) to finish their evaluations. Bamse is an automatic command to line-of-sight (ACLOS) missile system.
For the India solution, we have proposed that each unit shall consist of a GIRAFFE AMB which includes both radar and the command and control, and four BAMSE MCC(Missile Coordination Centres). We have integrated the system into a vehicle according to Indian requirements. We have mounted the BAMSE MCC on to Ashok Leyland’s carrier. I think it is a good example of what Saab is willing to do, to meet all the armed forces’ requirements and we also do the adaptation together with the Indian industry. We have the products and we can adopt and bring solutions fitted for India.
How are you pitching in the GIRAFFE AMB Radar in the Indian market?
GIRAFFE AMB is a part of the SRSAM programme. Surveillance radar and the battery command centre are all integrated in the GIRAFFE AMB and we have a number of other units that can connect with this system. If there is any other Request for Proposal (RFPs) with the right requirements, we can, of course, respond to them with our GIRAFFE system as well. We have seen some Request for Information (RFIs) for such programmes and responded. We have also been in discussions regarding the naval version of this system to the Indian market.
You have already participated in many seminars related to the air defence systems before. How is the current set of presentations different from your previous ones?
The recent presentations were different primarily because of the participation from various armed forces and the defence ministry officials. There is an increasing interest from the high officials in the armed forces and also the officials who handle the procurements. We are able to interact with the right people and put our message across to them.
There has been a significant focus on the anti-UAV systems. What do you have to offer in this area?
One of the main characteristics regarding Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems is they are smaller in size. To be able to counter UAVs you must be able to both detect and destroy small targets. The systems we are bringing to India has both radars and missiles designed for and are very capable of countering the threat of small targets.
How do you see the requirements for the Indian army for the air defence in the present day?
This is a question to put to others than us in the defence companies. From the RFPs available we can see that the requirements are very big regarding new systems of different types. The requirements in this area are for new systems in almost every application.
You have mentioned that the current RFPs from the Indian armed forces are mainly for the requirements at the battery level. How do you propose a complete air defence solution with the various products that you offer?
I believe that the capabilities within the air defence batteries can be even more enhanced if systems are added for communication and command and control between the batteries. The higher command can then use batteries of different missile types in better coordination.