This very interesting advert for the Gripen NG appears in the current edition of India’s biggest news magazine, India Today. It says a lot of things. One, it appears three months after the Gripen was officially eliminated from the Indian MMRCA competition. Two, and more interestingly, Saab’s creative concept has shifted away from simply highlighting the Gripen’s virtues (also of “autonomy” and “independence”), and now takes a direct shot at the two finalists in the competition — the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale — on cost and stated capability. In short, Saab believes it still has a chance, and this fight isn’t finished.
In one part, the advert says, “Performance counts when aircraft are in the air, defending the skies. Unfortunately, too many fighter aircraft are either sitting on the ground because they are too expensive to fly or simply do not have the capabilities that they were touted to have.” Ouch.
Also, “[The Gripen IN] has taken the essential philosophy behind the Gripen to the next level, making it a fighter of the latest generation priced at less than half of its peers and operating at a fraction of the cost.” The folks at Saab know all too well how delicate the next step in the MMRCA selection will be — the opening of bids and toss-ups against a benchmark price, understood to be ready and defined.
It gets better. The ad goes on the declare “Today, India has a choice“. Hmm, yep — between the Typhoon and Rafale, right? Well, there’s nothing official about it, but it’s been rumoured for a while that the four companies that were eliminated three months ago from the Indian MMRCA fighter competition (including Saab), have been “asked” to stick around in the country. The applicability of the aphorism “it ain’t over, till it’s over” to Indian defence contracting is well known. And it has much to do with what some see as a track that runs parallel to the ongoing selection process. A track that appears to internalize the possibility of complete chaos, forcing a Plan B. Imagine that.