pNEW DELHI: The race for the multi-billion dollar fighter aircraft deal has opened with a high-level Swedish delegation proposing a defense partnership pact with India and offering a partnership to develop the next generation of fighters./p pSweden is also planning to post a defense Attache at its embassy here to pursue further defence opportunities in the country. The Scandinavian country had found a foothold in India’s defence market when it supplied the Bofors artillery guns in the mid-eighties. But the ensuing scandal made the defense establishment wary of dealing with companies from the country. /p pThe Swedish Grippen fighter is the underdog in the tenders issued to six companies including the U.S. heavyweights Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the Russian MiG, the Eurofighter backed by four European nations and Rafael of France./p pSpeaking to news persons here, the Swedish Secretary for defense H.G. Wessberg said his country was looking for strategic partners in the development of the aerospace industry. Sweden was fully backing SAAB International (Grippen’s makers) with its Parliament approving more investments in the company as well as upgradation of the Grippen fleet in its Air Force. /p p“We are firmly committed to using the plane for another generation and we need partners,” said Mr. Wessberg. /p pAccompanied by Pontus Melander of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Major General Staffan Nasstrom, Special Adviser to the Swedish Ministry for Defence, the Secretary for Defence said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence with India “would make life much easier for both countries to discuss the fighter plane tenders.”/p span style=”font-weight: bold;font-size:100%;color:red;” class=”subsectionhead” span style=”color: rgb(0, 0, 0);” Cost-effective/span /span p align=”justify” /p pThe draft MoU submitted promises greater involvement with the Swedish Defence Research Agency which is an acknowledged world leader in under-water technology including submarines and co-developing the futuristic unmanned combat aerial vehicle or a pilot-less fighter plane. /p pGen. Nasstrom said the planes being offered by Sweden were cost-effective and had low life-cycle costs. “It is astonishing that few countries have produced planes that everyone can afford,” he observed, indicating that planes from his country would not be expensive./p

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