With knowledge comes power
Saab’s knowledge-transfer approach to supplying defence solutions is proving increasingly popular with armed forces across the planet. By sharing our intellectual property with customers, we empower them to take an active role in manufacturing and maintaining their defence assets.
The world is in a state of flux and global armed forces face a highly volatile threat environment. To be able to respond to evolving situations, they need aircraft and naval vessels that are not only highly effective and reliable but that they can maintain, repair and adapt and in-country.
Saab has long understood this desire from its customers to have a high degree of control of their assets and we have made knowledge transfer a key aspect of our supply deals with national governments and joint-venture partners. By transferring key technologies, sharing our intellectual property and establishing in-country manufacturing hubs, we empower customers to grow local defence competence. This very often leads to the creation of local jobs and the development of advanced defence manufacturing and servicing capabilities. It's an approach that has proved highly successful in the delivery of defence assets from submarines and surface vessels right through to jet fighters and camouflage solutions.
Gripen E program in Brazil
A key example of this approach can be seen in our supply of 36 Saab Gripen E/F jet fighters to Brazil.
When we bid for the contract to supply a replacement jet fighter for the F-X2 program in 2013, Brazilian authorities made it clear they wanted to develop in-country defense manufacturing capabilities. We responded with a plan that would transfer many of our advanced aeronautics technologies to host of Brazilian companies, including Embraer, AEL Sistema, Akaer and Atech. Following the signing of the contact, some 50 Brazilian engineers travelled to Sweden in 2015 to immerse themselves in the technology, with another 300 of their colleagues ultimately receiving training. In 2016, we opened the Gripen Design and Development Network in Gavião Peixoto to serve as a hub for knowledge transfer, followed by the Gripen Test Flight Centre, which started to operate in 2020 with the arrival of the test aircraft in Brazil. In 2018 we established Saab’s aerostructure plant in São Bernardo do Campo in 2018 to manufacture the tail cone, the air brakes as well as the rear and front fuselage for the new Gripen. In 2023, a final assembly line for Gripen E was opened at Embraer’s plant in Gavião Peixoto, firmly establishing Brazil as an advanced aeronautics manufacturer.
Collins Class submarine program in Australia
A similar approach was taken when shipbuilders Kockums, now part of Saab, worked with the Australian Government to supply a submarine capability in the 1990s. Australia previously had no experience manufacturing submarines and we worked with the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) to establish a local industry that ultimately manufactured six Collins Class submarines in-country between 1993 and 2001. Based on Swedish Västergötland Class vessels, the submarines remain in service and continue to be maintained in Australia. Meanwhile, Australia has also become the global base for development and customisation of our 9LV combat management system after we initially supplied the technology for the nation’s Anzac Class frigates in 1990s. Knowledge sharing has helped create a high level of local CMS competence, also creating potential export opportunities for Australia.
We also believe firmly in sharing knowledge and technologies with our joint venture partners. A case in point is our work with US aerospace and defence company Boeing on the delivery of 350 advanced pilot training aircraft for the US Air Force. After signing a joint development agreement in 2013, Saab and Boeing collaborated and shared knowledge to produce the first production-representative aircraft – known as the T-7A – in 2016. The USAF subsequently placed an order for 350 of the advanced aircraft. Honouring our commitment to create local jobs, in 2021 we opened a 9200-square-metre production facility in West Lafayette, Indiana, that is being used for domestic production of the aft airframe section for the T-7A trainer. The first plane was shipped to the USAF in September 2023.
Submarines and tactical vessels in Singapore
Another example of our knowledge sharing in the naval sector is our work with the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). In the 1990s, Kockums helped the RSN build a submarine fleet from scratch through the supply of four Sjöormen Class submarines decommissioned by the Swedish Navy. These vessels were recommissioned as the Challenger Class submarines in the early 2000s, with two still in service. In 2005, Singapore purchased two decommissioned Västergötland Class submarines from Kockums, which were then recommissioned as Archer Class submarines in 2011 and 2013.
We are currently working with Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) to design the country’s new multi-role combat vessel. Our agreement aims to nurture local talent in surface ships, design and naval and digital technology through knowledge sharing activities including work attachment and internships with Saab for DSTA engineers. The overall goal is to build in–country capabilities that will allow for the repair of composite structures and the overhaul of radar systems.
Still in Asia, in the 2000s, we signed a contract with Kawasaki Heavy Industries for the delivery of Stirling engines for the air independent propulsion (AIP) systems of Japan’s submarine program. The use of Kockums’ Stirling AIP system means that submarine do not have to surface to charge the batteries, increasing their submerged endurance from days to weeks. Through a licensing agreement and our transfer of knowledge, Kawasaki was able to implement this technology in the first 10 Sōryū Class submarines built for the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force.
Barracuda MCS program in Canada
Another example of sharing knowledge with business partners is our work with Tulmar Safety System in Canada.
With demand for Barracuda camouflage solutions increasing in North America, in 2023 we turned to Tulmar, a leading manufacturer of protective textiles, to help us more efficiently serve customers. Through our agreement, Barracuda multispectral camouflage material that has been created in Sweden is shipped to Tulmar in Ontario where it is then sewn and assembled to create Barracuda Mobile Camouflage Systems for different platforms. The partnership involves two-way knowledge sharing. Tulmar learns Saab’s techniques for assembling the MCS products while Saab stands to benefit from Tulmar’s extensive experience manufacturing products for armed forces and aviation.
A commitment to collaboration
With the geopolitical situation constantly evolving, there are many uncertainties in the world. However, one thing is certain. At Saab, we will continue to share knowledge and technology when working with our customers, helping them to grow the defence industry in their homelands. It’s a strategy that has proven itself time and time again. And it’s one which has major benefits both for us and our customers.