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.”
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.
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.
AB Svenska Järnvägsverkstäderna, ASJ, founded in Linköping by the brothers Carl Johan and Erland Uggla.
The shipyard delivers the first submarines to the Swedish Navy, the Svärdfisken and Tumlaren, and submarine production becomes the main focus of the company’s operations.
ASJ’s aircraft department is formed, ASJA, on the initiative of managing director Erland Uggla. The head of the department was Sven Blomberg.
ASJA buys Svenska Aero from Carl Clemens Bücker for SEK 250,000. The purchase included a previously placed order for seven fighter aircraft of the type J6 Jaktfalken.
Defence decision entails significant build-up of the air force. This is interpreted to mean that by 1943, Sweden should acquire 297 warplanes and 95 training aircraft. Discussions were initiated between ASJA and Bofors on forming a single company for the manufacture and design of aircraft.
Svenska Aero AB founded with head office in Trollhättan. Behind the new company are Bofors and Ab Ars (subsidiary of the Electrolux Group). Among the founders are: Marcus Wallenberg, Axel Wenner-Gren, Sven Wingquist. Agreement is reached in January for the shares to be equally distributed between ASJA and Bofors, and AB Förenade Flyverkstäder, AFF, is founded on 31 March.
Svenska Aero AB buys out competitor ASJA and moves head office to Linköping. In practice, it is ASJA that takes over the Saab brand.
Second World War breaks out and Bofors plays a key role in equipping the Swedish Armed Forces.
Statens Uppfinnarnämnd (a government organisation for promoting innovations for the Swedish military), Bofors, L M Ericsson and Saab begin joint research on ekoradar, the Swedish name for radar.
Maiden flight for Saab 91 Safir, 20 November. Until the Saab 340, the plane was Saab’s most successful export. It was used by several flight schools and air forces. Total of 323 produced. Designed by Anders Johan Andersson.
A unique subterranean shop facility in Linköping was put in service, measuring 20,000 square metres.
Development begins of antitank rifle, 84 mm m/48, at FFV in Eskilstuna, but barrels manufactured by Bofors. The antitank rifle goes under the name Carl-Gustaf outside of Sweden.
Maiden flight of Saab 29 Tunnan.
Maiden flight of Saab 32 Lansen, which was used by the Swedish Air Force from 1956 until 1997.
Maiden flight of Saab 35 Draken.
The submarines Draken, Vargen, Nordkaparen and Springaren launched. The first series to be fully designed by Kockums and a confirmation that the company had achieved the capability to produce its own submarines.
Ericsson develops the first fully Swedish-made aircraft radar for Saab 35 Draken.
The company changes its name to Saab AB.
Scania-Vabis AB merged into Saab-Scania AB.
First delivery of the Giraffe antiaircraft radar system.
With an eight-metre long Stirling section, the Näcken became the first Stirling-powered submarine in the world. With the Stirling technology, a submarine can remain submerged for several weeks at a time. The nearly silent machinery also makes the submarines more difficult to detect.
Kockums receives a huge export order valued at SEK 15 billion from Australia to build six submarines for the Australian Royal Navy. Kockums built the forebody, mid-section and two platforms for the first Collins submarine in Malmö.
First test flight of JAS 39 Gripen.
Aviation and motor vehicle production are separated: General Motors takes over automobile production in newly formed Saab Automobile AB. Scania becomes a separate company. The remaining parts stay in Saab AB.
Bofors merges with Förenade Fabriksverken i Eskilstuna and forms the company Swedish Ordnance in the Celsius Group.
Saab acquires defence group Celsius.
A major change. Saab and Celsius (including former Bofors) merge and gather aircraft, missile and avionics manufacture at Saab. Bofors’ artillery operations, including intelligent ammunition, are transferred to BAE Systems.
Bofors is split between Saab Dynamics (missiles and light support weapons) and BAE Systems Bofors AB (barrel systems and ammunition), which is included in the defence group BAE Systems Inc.
Saab becomes sole owner of Ericsson Microwave Systems and Saab Ericsson Space.
Major initiative begun in research and development of new-generation radar system.
Saab signs an agreement with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) for Gripen E.
Saab and Thyssen Krupp announce signing of a letter of intent pertaining to Saab’s purchase of Kockums.
Saab and Brazil sign contract for Gripen E.
Major contract with the United Arab Emirates for the new radar system Swing Role Surveillance System.
Saab acquires Dockstavarvet shipyard and the repair shipyard Muskövarvet AB, in order to strengthen Saab’s product offering in the naval domain.
U.S. Air Force selects Saab and Boeing T-X trainer. The advanced trainer will be developed and produced together with Boeing for the United States Air Force.
The first Brazilian Gripen flies in Brazil and the local production of the aircraft begins.