About Saab


A very brief summary is provided on the following pages of Saab’s various operations and its portfolio of products and services. Also described in the section is what can be called “Saab's soul”. This refers to the factors that characterise the corporate culture, past and present, in the military aircraft organisation at Saab.

Portfolio, Business Model and The Gripen

This section briefly describes the company Saab AB and specifically military aviation in the Saab Aeronautics business area with its Gripen operations.

Saab is a global defence and security company that develops, produces and sells some of the world's most advanced solutions for military and civil applications. The broad product portfolio is under constant development and presently spans the range from air combat systems, radar and weapons systems to civil surveillance systems for harbours and airports, for example. Saab has operations and employees on all continents and constantly develops, adapts and improves new technology to meet customers’ evolving needs.

As a manufacturer of advanced military products and fighter aircraft for more than 78 years, Saab Aeronautics has operated in a global environment that has undergone dramatic changes over the years.

A radical shift in international security has occurred since the Cold War came to an end in 1989, and this has strongly affected Sweden and the countries in the Baltic region. The market for sales of defence materiel has changed both in Sweden and abroad. The Swedish State, in the form of the Swedish government, Parliament and the Swedish government agencies, has radically changed the orientation of the Swedish Armed Forces during the past decades.

This has entailed many new demands that have affected Saab in becoming the leading supplier of defence materiel to the Swedish State. This applies to an even higher degree to international defence material commerce and especially with regard to sales of military fighter aircraft. Industrial partnerships have been strongly developed during recent decades. These partnerships are often decisive in major procurements of defence materiel in many parts of the world. Partnerships in international industrial collaboration projects also place considerable demands on collaboration on working procedures and the development of industrial capabilities.

Saab's portfolio

The figures in rings indicate the portion of Saab AB's total sales revenues in 2014

Strategy for innovative solutions

Saab's strategy is to:

  • Improve proximity to customers through presence in key markets.
  • Develop innovative solutions within prioritised product areas with good potential.
  • Continue streamlining operations.
  • Constantly hone the skills of management and staff, and to continue with establishing a corporate culture that promotes performance, commitment and diversity.

Saab's business model

Saab's business model is adapted to the product area, system complexity, customer group and geographical market.

Complex defence orders – For complex defence orders, Saab delivers directly to customers. These orders are comprised of all-inclusive solutions that frequently encompass training, maintenance, support and service, which are intended to maintain functionality and cost efficiency throughout product life cycles. Deliveries can continue for several years after the development phase. These systems are configured and developed based on customers’ specific needs and consequently involve a large portion of customer-funded development. Moreover, complex defence orders often include elements of industrial collaboration. An example of this is the development and delivery of the Gripen.

Subcontracting – Saab can also serve as a subcontractor for a partner that has the primary contact with the end-customer, such as in the delivery of subsystems. Several of Saab's systems, such as command systems, are platform independent and can be integrated both with Saab's products and systems, as well as those from other companies. Another reason for choosing to be a subcontractor can be due to cost or other market conditions, which makes this an effective strategy for maintaining a presence in a market.

Volume orders – Maintenance, support and training can also be marketed as separate undertakings in addition to the large defence orders. Consumables and spare parts are also included in this category. These products and solutions are often sold directly to customers. Some of these products and services are delivered the same day as orders are placed, while others have a lead time of over a year. These have a low portion of customer-funded development compared to complex systems, and include for example, large parts of Saab's civil portfolio as well as products that are sold in large volumes, such as ammunition.

Driving forces

The most important driving forces in Saab's markets are evolving threats and new security needs in society. Defence budgets have decreased in the western world for quite some time, while they are increasing in other parts of the world. These place increased demands on cost efficiency and capabilities to adapt to customers’ changed needs. The following requirements are important to satisfy:

  • Cost-efficient products
  • Local presence
  • System integration arising from new collaborative initiatives and alliances
  • Assurance of secure and efficient supply streams

The Gripen out in the world

Continuous development – The Gripen is under continuous development, both in the form of new generations and through upgrades to existing aircraft. The entire system and design are based on the ability to easily enhance performance and functions. Because the degree of computerisation is high, development is often a matter of upgrading the aircraft's many computer systems; new systems can be quickly integrated through software modifications. The Gripen is modularly constructed and can therefore be flexibly adapted to various needs. The design also facilitates industrial collaboration and the manufacture of certain subsystems in customer countries.

Cost efficiency – An effect of defence budgets having decreased in recent years in many countries is an increased interest in cost-efficient products. This benefits the Gripen, which combines advanced technology and high performance with low operating costs. The total cost for an aircraft includes both the purchase price and operating costs during the plane’s entire service life. The Gripen has a low life-cycle cost and a low cost per flight hour compared to its competitors. Operational safety and reliability are high. The Gripen is easy to maintain and repair. Ground crews can fully rearm and refuel a Gripen in just ten minutes. An engine can be replaced in less than an hour. This contributes to operating costs that are far less than the Gripen’s competitors and entails major tactical advantages for users.

Diversity – The Gripen is a fighter, attack and reconnaissance plane in one and the same aircraft. A pilot can quickly change the character of the aircraft while a mission is underway. While other aircraft must be adapted to different missions on the ground, the Gripen can switch roles while airborne. This provides substantial flexibility and important advantages in combat, and it also increases cost efficiency when a single aircraft can conduct many different missions.

Compatibility – The Gripen system is designed for participation in joint international missions with other nations and is fully compatible with NATO's systems. In the latest versions, the capabilities for international operations with other nations have been further enhanced.

Information systems – Knowledge is crucial in combat situations. The Gripen is equipped with advanced sensors and systems for electronic warfare, which provide major capabilities in detecting, identifying and blocking various types of threats, and protecting the aircraft against attack. The idea is to find out as much as possible about the enemy, and at the same time, revealing the least possible amount of information. The Gripen’s systems for signal surveillance and self-defence were developed to counter future threats and are based on, for example, very advanced signal processing and active sensors such as AESA radar.

Weapons systems – The Gripen has weapons for all types of missions, from guided glide bombs for precision targeting to long-range missiles.

Training – Saab offers training systems and simulators for training combat pilots and service staff.

Gripen deployment

The Gripen is presently deployed by the air forces of Sweden, South Africa, Thailand, the Czech Republic and Hungary, as well as by the ETPS (Empire Test Pilots’ School) in Great Britain. Saab's position in the global market is strong. In 2013, Sweden ordered 60 Gripen E aircraft, and in 2014, an agreement was reached with Brazil for the next-generation Gripen. The Gripen has an established position as a technically advanced, flexible and cost-efficient air combat system.

Saab's Soul – the Intangibles

This section provides a very brief description of what characterises operations at Saab.

The working procedures at Saab Aeronautics are based on very close collaboration within and between various organisational and technological areas. There are different types of networks between employees on all levels for collaboration on a daily basis. Saab has a very informal and flexible management culture that is supporting rather than hierarchal.

Even before our values were formally expressed, they always entailed major personal commitment and taking considerable responsibility. When any form of larger problem arises, there is always a joint effort in the organisation to solve it. This is when the networks are essential in dealing with the situation, as opposed to having management come up with a solution. Management has the confidence to give the employees guidance and trust but without micro-managing, which has been decisive for Saab's success.

Saab has gathered all its capabilities for developing military fighter aircraft within a radius of 500 metres. The personal contacts for gaining and sharing knowledge between employees are characterised by speed and closeness, which with time creates trust. The Swedish working culture is based on workers’ initiative capabilities, and their opportunities to influence operations are unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Knowledge at Aeronautics is based on the concept of a collective resource that works with flexibility. This knowledge may not be readily apparent and it has proven to be impossible to copy.

The author´s reflections