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Sweden’s Saab To Make M4 Variant Of Carl-Gustaf Anti-tank Weapon In India

Government permission sought for 100 per cent FDI, project set to be a test case on whether foreign-owned Indian companies can participate in Make in India Defence procurement programmes

Photo Credit : Saab AB


Carl-Gustaf M4: Saab’s Make in India gambit

Swedish arms company Saab has announced its intention to set up a manufacturing facility in India for the iconic Carl-Gustaf shoulder-fired rocket system, which is used as an anti-tank and bunker-busting weapon by leading armies across the world. 

Saab has sought permission of the Government of India for 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in setting up this facility, where it plans to start production of the latest version of the Carl- Gustaf - M4 - in 2024. An Indian subsidiary, Saab FFV, is currently under registration for this purpose.

For the company which once owned Bofors, this is a big step in aligning itself with the Make in India agenda.

“It is a natural step to set up a production facility for Carl-Gustaf M4 in India given the long and close association we have with the Indian Army as one of the foremost users of the system. We are glad to be able to contribute to the Government of India’s goals of developing a world class defence industry and proud to offer the Indian armed forces our Carl-Gustaf M4 made in India,” Gorgen Johansson, head of Saab’s business area Dynamics, announced in New Delhi on September 27.  

“We want 100 per cent FDI but could settle for 74 per cent (under the automatic route). We’re open,” Johansson said.

The progress of this Saab venture will be closely monitored by the global arms bazaar as a test of India’s avowed policy of being ownership agnostic with respect to Defence manufacturing facilities as long as the Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) agenda is being furthered. 

Outcomes will provide clarity on whether local companies with foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) ownership or subsidiaries of foreign entities will be treated as Indian for Defence procurements reserved for Indian companies. Progressively, India is shutting down import of Defence equipment with an overwhelming Make in India emphasis.

There’s been tepid response so far to India’s policy of allowing 74 per cent FDI  for Defence manufacturing through the automatic route and 100 per cent through Government permission in proposals which advance cutting-edge capability. 

An earlier version of the Carl-Gustaf, the M3, is being manufactured in India by the Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWEIL), which was earlier a unit of the Ordnance Factory Board, in partnership with Saab. Ammunition for the M3, which is in the inventory of Indian Army, is also made in India by Munitions India Limited (MIL) under a similar arrangement. The Swedish company said it would continue the existing partnerships while charting the course for the future with its own manufacturing facility. 

“Saab will continue its partnership with MIL and AWEIL to manufacture the Carl-Gustaf weapon and its ammunition,” Johansson said. The Carl-Gustaf system has been in use with the Indian Army since the first agreement for production in India was signed in 1976. With a wide variety of ammunition, Carl-Gustaf has established itself as the main shoulder-launched weapon used by the Indian armed forces. 

However, the new types of ammunition for the Indian-made M4 version will be imported from Sweden, Johansson clarified. Technologies for the launcher will be transferred to the Indian subsidiary. The M4 is used as a platoon anti-tank weapon with a kill range of 1,500 metres. At 7 kg, the M4 is significantly lighter than the earlier variants, can be carried loaded and has a contemporary red ball site which is compatible with night vision clip-ons. 

“Saab FFV India will deploy complex technologies including the latest sighting technology and apply advanced manufacturing techniques like carbon fibre winding for the Carl Gustaf system including the latest M4 weapon,” a Saab statement elaborated. The M4 is used by the armed forces of 15 countries, including the US.

Saab recently won a contract for supplying A4 single shot shoulder-launched weapons to the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force for use as an urban warfare and counter-terrorism weapon.