One of the reasons the development of Gripen E is going as per plan, is the use of model based development (MBD). With MBD, Saab has expanded its virtual development to enable greater reuse of data models. This translates into shorter lead times. All software and hardware are developed with the help of computerized models, meaning updates are made extremely quickly, and fewer test flights are needed for the new aircraft, as much of the verification can be done through simulators rather than in the air.
The evolution in the capabilities involved in fighter aircraft deveopment from around 1960s till now has been tremendous. For the future however, the curve is exponentially high. “We are witnessing a graph that shows the future of innovation to be a straight line, moving in a 90 degree angle,” says Saab India Chairman and Managing Director, Jan Widerström in a recent interview with Businessworld.
R&D in Next Generation Technologies
According to Widerström, Saab invests heavily in the R&D of next generation technologies and applications related to AI, drones, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT). Innovative materials, algorithms, and signal processing are some of the areas in which Saab is investing. Around 20-30 percent of Saab’s turnover drives research, with the aim to stay ahead of the innovation curve.
The result is development of aircraft like Gripen E, which is designed to fly and meet the challenges of not only today, but of another 50 years. Through the years, both hardware and software can be regularly updated and customised. The changes can be made much as ‘mobile apps’ are updated, without needing to requalify the entire system.
The Gripen E project is not the only one to benefit from state-of-the-art technology and its integration from a very early stage. The technological development taking place at Saab within the field of missile technology is resulting in a multitude of new capabilities which can be utilised by future customers.
The India Offer
India has tremendous opportunity to benefit from and excel in these areas, according to Jan Widerström. Saab is fully committed to transferring capabilities, and not just technology, to India and creating an aerospace ecosystem in the country. “We will not just produce a few Gripen fighter planes but support India and the Indian Air Force with next-generation fighter planes solutions as well. This is part of the offer,” says Widerström.
A significant part of Saab’s R&D is being done at the Saab India Technology Centre (SITC) in Hyderabad. This includes a broad spectrum of work, from Gripen E to submarine technology. Saab CEO, Håkan Buskhe, talking about Saab’s successful collaborations in India, has said, “I see potential in finding more areas in which SITC can contribute to increased competitiveness and profitability. By conducting development in India, with Indian engineers, we show our customers that we fully support the ‘Make in India’ initiative, which is an important prerequisite for our business activities.”