Saab’s Industrial Cooperation Programmes Will Lead To A Strong Domestic Defence Industry

President & CEO of Saab Asia Pacific, Dan Enstedt, talks about the Asia Pacific market, one of the largest and growing defence markets of the world.

How do you see the Asia Pacific defence market shaping up?

The Asia Pacific market is among the largest defence markets. We are seeing the Asia Pacific market evolving from dependence on a small group of suppliers, based on historic and strategic relationships, to buyers of cutting-edge, customized solutions that meet the specific requirements of the country’s forces.

For Saab, Asia Pacific is a focus market area where the company has been expanding its presence significantly and participating in multiple defence programs. Saab products are in use in a number of countries in the region, including Korea, Japan, China (AIS), Thailand, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. 

The national defence forces of the region are giving greater emphasis on acquiring solutions that are customized to their requirements rather than simply taking products off the shelf. This means that they are getting better value from their expenditure which is of critical importance in these financially constrained times. There is also greater focus on indigenization and localization.

The key defence technology requirements in the region span the entire range of products and systems. Countries in the region are looking at new aircraft technologies that are more relevant to their needs and desired capabilities. Similarly, they are looking at acquiring advanced Electronic Warfare, Surveillance, command and control systems.

How do Saab’s industrial cooperation programs actually benefit countries in the Asia Pacific region?

We have been working with different countries to address their needs and we are very open in sharing all the learnings with our partners. We take the best of each nation’s learnings and help to transmit it to other nations and vice versa. At Saab, we like to think of ourselves as a catalytic converter. For instance, our Gripen system has been bought by Brazil and Thailand. In time to come, we hope to gain insights from the deployment and performance of the aircraft in both of these countries. These learnings will go back into further development of the product.

Saab’s industrial cooperation programmes will lead to a strong domestic defence industry. As a result, the domestic defence industry will be able to meet future domestic requirements. Further, it will also open up the opportunity for these companies to become partners in global programs. Our success in some parts of the world is not merely because we are willing to transfer technology and the know-how but also because we enable countries to become co-developers of technology.

Finally, and most importantly, it gives countries the ability to choose their technology partners independent of their strategic necessity once the domestic companies start becoming capable of developing their own products and solutions.

What role will national companies play in Saab’s market approach?

Sweden and Saab have a proven track record of being open to sharing critical technology. We call it Transfer of Technology in its true sense. This includes - training, transfer of know-how, capability development, and ensuring development of supply chain for cutting edge technology systems.  We are talking about sharing critical technology so the country could be self-reliant and build a state of the art indigenous industry.

In Thailand, we have entered into a strategic partnership with AVIA Satcom where we have taken significant equity. The process of transferring technology saw AVIA launch its own product last year -- the AVIA TIRA Combat Management System.

In Indonesia, we have partnered with Indonesian companies and developed products through joint efforts. There is big interest from Indonesian stakeholders for our joint ideas and programs. Indonesia’s defence requirements, the context of its geography and the challenges to security can be well addressed by Saab products. We are also very impressed with and supportive of the government’s policy of promoting local industry, acquiring affordable, frontline cutting-edge products and focus on transfer of technology.

Similarly, in Malaysia, we deepened our relationship with the Malaysian company Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd (Deftech), a wholly owned subsidiary of DRB-HICOM Berhad by adding the Gripen system to our joint planning. This new agreement between Saab and Deftech outlines planned industrial cooperation which will explore areas of technology transfer. The agreement covers areas such as Gripen-related maintenance and support activities, design and manufacturing of advanced composite systems and associated technology transfer.

In 2011, we signed an industrial co-operation teaming agreement to collaborate on an airborne early warning and control system. This co-operation was further expanded in March 2013 with the signature of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering various technology areas.

In India, we have partnerships with a large number of companies across different areas. We have a Research and Development Center, in partnership with Tech Mahindra in Hyderabad. Saab is collaborating with HAL for Electronic Warfare systems for the Dhruv helicopter. Saab and Bharat Forge Limited have signed an agreement to work together on the Indian Army Air Defence programs VSHORAD and SRSAM. Also, Saab and Ashok Leyland have entered into an agreement to work together for the SRSAM program.

Saab is also an equity investor in Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Ltd. In collaboration with Grintex, Saab has deployed Advanced Surface Movement Guidance & Control Systems (A-SMGCS) at nine of the eleven busiest airports in India.  We, in collaboration with Elcome Integrated Systems, have also implemented the National Automatic Identification System on the Indian coast line.