February 8, 2011 / 8:33 AM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-Swedish Saab to open R&D unit in India

* To add 300 engineers over 5 years-CEO

* Is in race for $11-bln Indian fighter jet order

(Adds details, background)

BANGALORE, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Swedish defence and aerospace group Saab AB (SAABb.ST) plans to open a research and development centre in India "soon," as it looks to boost its presence in one of the fastest growing aircraft markets, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The Swedish firm plans to add 300 engineers over five years, Hakan Buskhe told a media briefing.

High spending on arms and a rapid increase in civil transport in Asia's third-largest economy has lured global players like Saab, Boeing (BA.N) and Airbus EAD.PA to India.

Last October, Airbus' chief executive Tom Enders said the company plans to more than double its team at its India engineering centre to 400 by 2013. [ID:nSGE6900DH].

India is one of the world's biggest arms importers, and the government says it plans to spend up to $50 billion to upgrade its Soviet-supplied military over the next five years to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China. Saab's JAS-39 Gripen is competing with Boeing's (BA.N) F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault's (AVMD.PA) Rafale, Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N) F-16 and Russia's MiG-35 to win a contract from India for 126 fighter jets, valued at around $11 billion.

The Eurofighter Typhoon jet produced by a consortium of European firms including EADS EAD.PA, BAE Systems (BAES.L) and Finmeccanica SIFI.MI is also in the running for the contract. (Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee; Editing by Jui Chakravorty)

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