Andrew Walton, Head of Saab UK, talks about the UK and Sweden partnering on future combat air

The announcement at RIAT 2019 that Sweden, and with it Saab, will partner with the UK and its industry, to scope out a potential joint acquisition programme, is momentous.

This partnership between Sweden and the UK is an important Andrew Walton CBEcollaboration between the two countries. With a commitment to share the best of our collective technological expertise, the partnership will equip our armed forces with the leading edge capabilities they require to protect our societies and interests.

Saab’s journey as a global, full-spectrum defence and security company started in 1937 when it was established to build fighter aircraft for the Swedish Air Force. Since then, it has built more than 3,200 fighter aircraft and over 1,300 other types of aircraft.  In 2017, Gripen E, the latest version of the highly successful fighter family, took to the air. Saab’s involvement in Future Combat Air, within the British and Swedish relationship, has the potential to be the next step in this proud heritage.

Alongside British industry partners (BAeS, Leonardo UK, MBDA and Rolls Royce), Saab will contribute its experience of advanced technology development, lead system integrator of complete combat air systems and related areas including electronic warfare, sensors, missile systems and support.

Technology development for FCAS will also provide additional benefits to the long-term sustainment and development of current platforms and systems including Gripen.  Saab will continue to work in close partnership with existing strategic partners such as the Swedish and Brazilian Air Forces, as well as with other existing and new Gripen customers, to ensure that Gripen evolves to match emerging operational requirements for decades to come.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Sweden reflects a relationship between two strong industrial nations, with complementary approaches to business and two aerospace heritages of which both are rightly proud.  There are also commonalities in the threats faced by each nation.  Partnering on combat air offers the possibility of mitigating these threats and maximising the capability of future systems whilst reducing cost.

This kind of partnership has the potential to be a powerful one.  Through our substantial synergies, we will be able to develop new solutions for future combat air systems, meeting Swedish and UK requirements, as well as those of many others.

Importantly, this partnership will further strengthen the continuing development of Gripen. The technological benefits of the relationship will provide Gripen with continuous capability upgrades throughout its lifecycle and well into the 2060’s.

As a former Royal Air Force fighter pilot, I look forward to seeing the UK and Sweden explore further the development of a truly innovative combat air system, utilising emerging technologies, to ensure that the next generation of young Servicemen and women have the very best capabilities that our two nations can provide.

 

Main picture: UK Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, and Swedish MInister for Defence, Mr Peter Hultqvist, at the MoU signing in the UK MoD - Crown Copyright 2019

Seconday picture: Head of Saab UK, Andrew Walton CBE