Swedish aerospace giant Saab said yesterday that its Gripen fighter aircraft is no longer in the running for India’s medium multi-role combat aircraft contract.

“Saab has received information from the Indian Ministry of Defense that Gripen has not been shortlisted for the Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program,” the company said in a press statement.

“We are committed to the Indian market and continue our plans for growth and see huge business opportunities in the aerospace, defence and security sectors,” said Saab President and CEO Hakan Buskhe.

Gripen is in service with the Swedish, Czech Republic, Hungarian, South African and Thai Air Forces.

New Delhi in 2009 began long-flight evaluations for the purchase of 126 multirole fighters, with a firm option for at least 50 percent more. A contract could ultimately be worth up to $20 billion, according to industry sources.

India plans to replace hundreds of MiG-21s with 126 aircraft that would fit somewhere in between its high-end Russian Su-30MKIs and its low-end indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft fighters.

Dassault‘s Rafale, the Eurofighter GmbH Typhoon, the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-16, the Boeing [BA] F/A-18 Super Hornet and MiG-35 had also submitted proposals for the contract. Eurofighter is an industrial consortium that includes BAE SYSTEMS, Alenia, and EADS.

India had not officially eliminated any of these competing offerings as of yesterday’s announcement about the Gripen.

Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst for the Teal Group, said he believes the Super Hornet is still the front-runner in the contest. A Super Hornet purchase offers India “the best upgrade roadmap and the best U.S. cooperation roadmap,” Aboulafia said yesterday.

The next-generation version of the Gripen is still in competition for Brazil’s F-X2 program against the Rafale and the Super Hornet.