Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, chief of India's Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) took a spin in the backseat of a Saab Gripen-D on May 31 at Linköping, Sweden. Saraswat was in Sweden to attend Aerospace Forum Sweden, a seminar where he made a detailed presentation on India's unmanned programmes.
The Gripen was, until early last year, a contender in India's $12-billion medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition. It was one of the four aircraft that were eliminated from the reckoning in the competition's first downselect. A week before his sortie, India's air force chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Browne, did a sortie in a Rafale (the aircraft that emerged on top in the competition, and for which a final contract is currently being negotiated with maker Dassault) at the Saint-Dizier air force base in France.
The DRDO chief's sortie has less to do with the MMRCA competition and more, perhaps, to do with Saab's own interest in engaging with the DRDO in a variety of programmes, presumably the Tejas Mk.2, unmanned air vehicles (including UCAVs) and others.
Somehow, considering where the indigenous fighter programme is right now, it might have been a more impactful photo-op if Dr Saraswat had chosen to make his fighter debut in the Tejas Mk.1 trainer
. The Gripen and Tejas are variously compared too. Who knows, maybe he'll do it now.
Incidentally, I did a sortie
in a Gripen-D too (likely the very same aircraft) in October 2009, with Saab test pilot Robin Nordlander.
editor Saurabh Joshi was at the flightline
during the DRDO chief's flight and took these photos he's been kind enough to share with me.