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35 Draken

Over 400 years of history

Sweden has a lengthy history of initiatives in the defence and security industry. This small country has produced a large number of well-known, high-tech companies – such as Bofors, Kockums and Saab – that have now become one with Saab. Certain aspects of our history go all the way back to the 1600s, when Sweden was one of Europe’s major powers.

Saab came about during the 1930s under the threat of a new world war. In the neutral Sweden, politicians wanted to create an air force based on domestic industry. It was clear that aviation was the future. Prime Minister Per-Albin Hansson declared in a speech in 1936 that “our country should manufacture its own weapons as much as possible. We have good shipyards and armouries but we have no production in the country for warplanes.”

Artillery pieces and combat vehicles
Artillery pieces and combat vehicles at Bofors.
Arthur
The artillery localization radar system Arthur.

Saab was founded on 2 April 1937 to develop and manufacture combat aircraft. The Swedish Air Force was built up during the Cold War with products from us, and became one of the world’s largest. Planes such as the Draken, Viggen and Gripen represent some of Sweden’s largest industrial initiatives through history and have led to pioneering technological developments in several fields, not the least in the IT sector.

A large portion of the Swedish defence and security industry’s history is associated with today’s Saab. With the acquisitions of companies such as Bofors and Kockums, Saab has gained a heritage that can be traced back to the 1600s. As early as the reign of King Karl XI during the country’s years as a major power, Sweden’s most specialised vessels were launched at the naval yard in Karlskrona, and the same is true today with the construction of the next generation of submarines.

Victor Hammar the gun designer
Bofors 75 mm mountain cannon in driving position.
Coastal corvettes that evade radar
Coastal corvettes that evade radar.

In the manufacturing district of Bofors at the close of the 1800s, Alfred Nobel began world-leading production of artillery and gunpowder. More than 100 years later, this is where antiaircraft weapons systems and antitank weapons are developed for future needs. In 2006, Saab made one of its most strategic acquisitions with the purchase of Ericsson Microwave Systems. The company has world-leading products in radar and surveillance, including the airborne radar system Erieye, the Giraffe ground radar system and the artillery localization radar system Arthur.

Although we started as a pure defence industry company, the end of the war and impending military budget cuts prompted the company to branch out into civilian aircraft and applications. This process would pave the way for the company’s merger with Scania between 1969 and 1995.