Innovation capability


The descriptions in the different sections explain how it has been possible to develop model-based working procedures that have simplified and rationalised the work to create design and production documentation, which has dramatically altered the working methodology.

This chapter presents how future development will take place as regards model-based working procedures, as well as how future development could result in new advanced systems and products. Moreover, one section shows ways to achieve cost-effective solutions for customers.

Creative Engineering Capability

This section briefly describes how Saab has developed an effective methodology for simplifying and optimising the entire value stream in the field of structure development.

If you would like to read this entire text, it can be found in Creative Engineering Capability with MBD.

Saab's creative engineering capability has created new effective working procedures. One of these is MBD, which has now been realised in practice.


Historically, design work has been documented in drawings, which are made on either paper or plastic film. Material for both production and preparation has been documented on paper together with associated lists of components and parts. Optimising this work required new working procedures and tools.

Developing creative engineering capability requires effective methods, effective tools and a good measure of free thinking. But creating effective methods and tools also demands innovation and creativity. For quite some time, Saab has been developing new working procedures, new methodology and new tools that have optimised a great deal of the work involved in fuselage design.

A good overview of the entire value stream is extremely important. If we can see the whole, we can also see the potential for improvement, which provides room for creativity and a more enjoyable way to work. Effective methodologies and effective tools create the conditions for reducing lead times, increasing quality, reducing costs and providing room for innovative engineering.

The use of models has created the conditions for working in a seamless value stream in which all information is described in digital form.

The work with MBD has also enabled major simplifications to working procedures; the 3D descriptions have enabled virtual representations of how a design is to work before the decision to manufacture it is made. Developments in the production of design and production documentation and the like has progressed enormously in the past 15 years. All professions involved also now have easy access to models with essentially all the necessary information.

The implementation of MBD

Saab's journey of change for MBD evolved internally and – not least – from cooperation with partners. These activities helped inspire and develop new ideas for rational working procedures.

Important steps in the development of MBD were taken in the different partnerships and projects presented below:

  1. British Aerospace for the Gripen C – conducted at the end of the 1990s and concerned production in very small volumes.
  2. With Airbus for the A380 and the A320 – conducted at the beginning of the 2000s and concerned serial production in large volumes.
  3. With Boeing Commercial Airplanes for the 787 Dreamliner – conducted in the middle of the 2000s and concerned serial production in large volumes.
  4. With the European collaborative project Neuron – conducted 2005–2010 and concerned one-off production.
  5. For the Gripen NG/Gripen E – started in 2009 and concerns batch production.
  6. With Boeing Defense for the development of a new American military training aircraft, the T-X – started in 2013 and concerns batch production.

In practice, MBD is applied in the operational areas Design, Production Techniques, Production and Aftermarket.

Start of the MBD journey, late 1990s – assembly process simulation and access analysis (geometry verification)

At the end of the 1990s, 3D models were used in design operations to easily create drawings. At that time, not all parts had 3D definitions and were instead defined in a general drawing. The working procedures meant that models were created and stored in a file system.

During the design work, the 3D model was only available to a single designer. Only once the design was complete, and released, could other designers easily access the results. Designers worked on their work files and shared their progress on a design essentially as they saw fit, which meant that other designers and production engineers did not always have the right conditions for conducting their work.

The end of the 1990s saw the beginnings of the evaluation and later implementation of working procedures for simulated assembly. The people who looked into this determined that the technology was mature enough to implement. The necessary software was available and supported by the working procedures used in ongoing product development projects.

Refined working procedures in the 2000s

The beginning of the 2000s saw a number of evaluations of experiences from different product development projects that had used assembly process simulation. The conclusion was that the work with assembly process simulation should not be conducted by experts in the field. Instead, the working procedure was to be established among personnel in Production Techniques. Production engineers were to conduct the analyses themselves as part of their normal duties.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes 2004 (Seattle) – new way to create work instructions

When Boeing started its development project for the 787 Dreamliner, Saab was heavily involved in the details of the working procedure for MBD. This was because Saab was a Tier 1 partner to Boeing.

The work packages that Saab received from Boeing for the 787 Dreamliner and that concerned design work assumed that Saab worked in accordance with Boeing's methodology and working procedures, as well as in their IT environment. As regards production, Boeing had no special requirements for the working methodology. This meant that in this case Saab could develop its own concept.

One of the first assignments that Saab received was to design a conceptual cargo door for a test object. Without any major investments in IT systems, tests were conducted in preparing design documentation (3D-EBOM) and transforming it into production documentation (3D-MBOM).

For the first time, Saab created 3D-based work instructions with the aid of assembly process simulation and, following successful tests, decided to acquire the database component of DELMIA and to continue with IPPD management for the 787 Dreamliner.

Paradigm shift in the 2010s with the Gripen NG 2010 – limited resources and creative employees

In its earlier work with the Gripen Demo, Saab had demonstrated how the development of the Gripen system could progress; the next step was to develop the Gripen NG. Saab itself had invested heavily in these projects, which contributed to the need to with limited financial resources and smart solutions develop new working procedures and new methods.

Boeing Defense T-X 2012 (St. Louis) – implement MBD from the start in Saab's work

Saab's long-term cooperation with the civilian division of Boeing has contributed to the working procedures developed for MBD gaining a world-leading position. Saab has now entered a partnership with the military division of Boeing to develop a new aircraft for military use, intended for training pilots in the US Air Force and called T-X.

In this partnership, Saab has chosen to work using different methods for design and production techniques. The military division of Boeing has assigned the designer a great deal of responsibility for production techniques, while Saab is attempting to keep the design documentation free from process requirements.

It is very clear, however, that Saab's modern working procedures attract great interest even from this division of Boeing.

The Gripen E 2013 – the next step in the maintenance preparation value stream

Technical information will have a new format for the Gripen E due to a principal decision to make full use of MBD.

MBD could be implemented in tool design if the design is visualised and specified in 3D format. This would entail developing functions for generating both a drawing and production documentation in a lightweight format (a lightweight format is a scaled back model from a product definition, making it easy for users to communicate and manage).

Both the drawing in lightweight format and the associated documentation can then be distributed for production by Saab or a subcontractor.


An important success factor behind Saab's progress in implementing MBD is that Saab's management has strongly and consistently supported MBD. The people who have worked with the development and implementation of MBD have also successfully involved all formal and informal leaders at all levels.


Learning from each other and developing new skills has been a success factor that has paid dividends in many different situations. The work packages that Saab received in conjunction with the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner have greatly influenced Saab's expertise in MBD.

The continued development of MBD and achieving its full effect throughout development work and the product life cycle demand a cross-functional approach.

Experience sharing has primarily taken place within the project organisations when people who have worked on a product development project that employed MBD methods join a new product development project. In recent years, methodological support has increased considerably as more employees have become involved.

In the future, the line organisation's PM&T organisation must shoulder greater responsibility for methodological support, best practice (knowledge sharing between development projects) and, most of all, methodology development as there is still more potential to rationalise.

Business intelligence

In future, thorough business intelligence covering developments in MBD methodologies will be necessary, and not only in the aviation industry but also in other manufacturing industries. More specifically, there is a need to look at how to more effectively develop MBD methodologies for business collaborations. Customer requirements for the maintenance and use of Saab's products are also a necessary source of inspiration for establishing requirements for and working innovatively with MBD methodologies.

Next step

The next phase in MBD is to fully implement the comprehensive initiative that we have begun, which will enable us to manage the entire value chain in all product projects. MBD will then be able to manage the entire information life cycle, a large share of the development tools that are used, all systems that manage product data, the entire methodology for producing design and production documentation and, not least, all the documentation used for maintenance preparations and spare part catalogues. Moreover, the MBD methodology must be included in all cooperation with subcontractors and partners.


The new working procedures for MBD have proven to be superior to the old working procedures in all ways. Work in accordance with the MBD methodology takes less time, provides better quality, entails fewer tasks and delivers lower costs. Moreover, the value stream in the design and production process is simpler and, consequently, provides improved delivery precision. The saving with MBD compared to traditional working procedures is more than 30%.

Working Procedures in a Model-Based World

This section describes development of model-based working procedures for the next 15 years to come. Model-based working procedures makes it easier for customers to determine if needs, requirements and expectations can be realised early in a conceptual phase.

In the future, model-based working procedures will be sufficiently advanced that the final results can be demonstrated at the beginning of system development. Consequently, it will be possible to more quickly develop an aircraft’s operational capabilities and increase its robustness and quality.

It will be possible to create a complete virtual aircraft with the actual subsystems integrated and verified, and with the virtually complete aircraft providing an accurate depiction of the actual aircraft.


Saab is today one of the world's leading companies in the aircraft industry. During development of today's aviation systems, Saab has succeeded in significantly increasing the Gripen’s capabilities, and at the same time, the previously rising cost trend has been broken and is now actually decreasing. To further increase capabilities during the next 15 years, Saab must define new challenges. The requirements on Saab’s products are becoming more stringent, at the same time as the complexity of functions and software is exponentially increasing.

Airborne systems are already sufficiently complex that powerful tools for system development are absolutely necessary. The work methodology is also being further developed in order to benefit from rapid technological developments, where even simulators and tools for systems development are exponentially increasing in complexity.

The method we call Design Once concerns a development philosophy in which simulators and aircraft are two sides of the same coin. A final product is achieved using effective and smart working procedures for system development to attain better performance and higher quality at a lower cost.

There is a trend for conducting more ground-based training, and this will likely continue. In certain cases, there are difficulties in achieving realistic training environments through live flight testing.

Flight time will primarily be used for knowledge-verification purposes and to give pilots the necessary time to develop good airmanship.

Historical development

Training simulators have been important in pilot training since the infancy of aviation. The Link Trainer was the first advanced training simulator, and it was used to practice instrument flight. It was developed back in the early 1930s.

During the 1950s and 1960s, simulator technology was further developed to incorporate advances in electronic systems. For the J35 Draken and AJ 37 Viggen aircraft, there were analogue and digital simulators in which pilots could practice general flight operations including landings. For the Viggen, simulator support was further developed so that by the 1970s and 1980s, simpler tactical exercises could also be conducted.

When the JAS 39 Gripen aircraft was developed, the step was taken into the modern simulator age with more advanced tactical training capabilities and modern visualisation of flight environments. It was during development of the first training system at Saab, the Mission Trainer 39C, that the Design Once concept came about.

The concept's significance and the primary reason for Saab developing its own training simulator system is the capability to set the requirements for producing models and aircraft code as early as the development phase, with regards to training needs.

This has resulted in aircraft development teams being able to produce complete software code for the aircraft that is used in simulation before the aircraft is delivered. In this way, software updates can be transferred to the training simulators before new versions of the aircraft are delivered. This enables training in new functions or capabilities months before users’ aircraft are updated.

Today's modern fighter aircraft have substantially increased system complexity compared to their predecessors, and they are designed to a higher degree than before to support pilots in operating their aircraft. This has contributed to improved requirement specifications for training simulators so that more support is provided for training with pilot stations in networks (train as you fly).

This is why the new generation of simulators for the Gripen E has been designed with a network-centric approach. This entails that participating simulators and pilot stations, including all information that is of common interest in an exercise, are handled as central network services to provide a common perception of the surroundings.

Moreover, the synthetic tactical surroundings are designed in such a way that they enable tactical training in complex combat environments.

Gripen’s development and training simulator

For development of the Gripen, Saab has many different types of simulators that are used during two different phases of development. There are simulators for marketing and concepts in the first phase, and simulators for development in the second phase.

Simulators for training are products that are included in the Gripen materiel system. During work with development simulators, the results can be reused for training products.

Development simulators can be constructed of software alone, software-in-the-loop, or a combination of software and hardware, hardware-in-the-loop. Saab’s most complex simulators for development, can in principle be considered as actual test aircraft on the ground. Training simulators also include hardware in the form of replicated equipment in the cockpit.

A Gripen simulator is exceedingly complex due to it consisting of hundreds of models, which in turn, are also very complex.

The term simulator usually brings to mind a complete simulator in which no differentiation is made between aircraft and the real world. To clarify what a simulator is and what it can consist of, we can divide it into two separate parts.

A simulator consists of an aircraft simulation and an environment simulation.

Definitions of models

The term models is general and very extensive. All people make use of models. We are usually not even aware of this, but a toy in the form of a car or doll is an example of a model intended for play.

A model’s application area is defined by the properties it has been allocated. People use models to gain a better understanding of the real world. When a child plays with a toy, from a purely technical perspective, this can be called a simulation; a simulation intended to develop an understanding of how something works.

Saab can thus use simulators to explore new design solutions for aircraft for which knowledge is not yet complete. This technology can also be used to solve problems that initially appear difficult rectify.

When developing technology, models are used to simulate or define a technical solution. The models’ properties depend on the purpose for which they are used.

The only types of models addressed in this chapter are models of systems in aircraft, such as the Gripen. Because these models are used to construct aircraft simulations in real time, they have specific properties expressly for this purpose.

The other model types are those used in environment simulation. These model types describe the surroundings and integrate with the aircraft simulation.

Software models are used to describe how a certain system functions. This is accomplished by using mathematical functions and logic states. The desired property for this model type is that it represents an actual system at a level defined for the application area.

It is also important to understand the limitations that certain models may have. This is because of there being physical sequences that are very difficult to simulate. Such physical sequences can be those that include chaotic states, such as during an aircraft's passage through the transonic range or when the aircraft stalls. Within five years, Saab will have the technological prerequisites to conduct better simulations in real time of this type of physical sequence.

This section focuses on two different model types as set out below:

  1. Parameter-controlled models that are used in simulation during concept development are called function models.
  2. Apparatus models of a similar type that correspond to actual implemented systems.

The parameter-controlled function models are more generally constructed and only simulate the functions in a system. The models’ properties and performance can be easily influenced by changing parameter sets.

An example of this is a radar model that simulates the function of a radar device. The parameters that are typically desirable to change to replicate various types of radar systems are capabilities in the form of range, cooling requirements, weight or other properties that one wants to be able to influence.

Once a function model has been evaluated in a simulator, the parameters can be reused as design data for an apparatus model.

Apparatus models of a similar type are used primarily in development and training simulators. These models represent actual implemented systems in an aircraft, in contrast to the parameter-controlled function models, in which all system properties are already set. This is because the purpose is to verify systems of a similar type in the aircraft.

As much as possible, these models are exact copies of the actual systems, where both hardware and software functions are fully implemented. This type of simulator model can be exceedingly complex to execute purely mathematically, since the most detailed models can include 10,000–50,000 equations that are calculated 60 times per second.

The term function models will henceforth be used for parameter-controlled models, and apparatus models for the models of a similar type.

The models for environment simulation are used in aircraft simulations. Environment simulations are used both in development simulators and training simulators.

The systems that generate data in the environment are simulations of tactical, visual and physical surroundings. Put in simple terms, it can be said that these models simulate how the force of air acts upon the aircraft’s fuselage, what the pilot sees, as well as the output from aircraft and weaponry sensors.

One example of a physical model is an atmosphere model. This is what provides the aircraft simulation with, among other information, values for atmospheric pressure and temperature.

A tactical simulation has the capability to generate complete combat scenarios.

The properties of the visual system are decisive in being able to evaluate the overall performance of an aircraft simulation. Both the pilot and image sensors are dependent on good resolution and minimal lag.

Existing working procedures for operative validation

Saab is working with operative validation together with our customers, and the information produced is being reused. The technology and working procedures can be further developed to significantly increase cost efficiency.

Saab has built a special facility for operative validation, with a simulator for developing and validating concepts. It is made up solely of function models. There are function models for each type of subsystem that is to be developed. Examples of these are radar systems, engines, fuselages with aerodata and so forth. The model's properties are defined with the type of model used, as well as the parameters necessary for determining the system’s specific properties.

Future model-based working procedures

In the future, it will be possible to work more systematically with operative validation, which is because the working procedures will have been developed for working entirely model-based. In the years to come, each engineer will have access to much more advanced tools and desktop computing power than at present.

How should the collective knowledge of how one develops a complete aircraft or entire materiel system be systematically utilised in a coordinated manner?

The answer is that in the future, model-based working procedures will have been developed in the form of a learning organisation. Simulators will be essential in day-to-day work, and the development of models of individual subsystems will be continuous and systematic. With these models, advanced simulators will be built that define the aircraft or materiel system.

It will thus be significantly easier to gain and enhance capabilities for developing and validating a complete aircraft, along with the associated support and training systems, completely virtually as early as the tendering stage.

Environment simulation for virtual test flights

By clearly separating the two different parts of a simulation that comprise a complete simulator, the opportunity is attained for being able to choose between connecting either an actual aircraft or an aircraft simulation to the environment simulation. If the choice is made to connect the aircraft to the environment simulation, a sub-step has been added between virtual flight in a simulator and actual flight.

With this approach, two different variants of simulators on the ground are made available. Our test aircraft can be temporarily utilised as simulators, which provides substantial potential for upgrading simulator capacities as needed.

Historical example: Prior to flight with the first test aircraft, the Gripen 39-1, it was connected to an environment simulation. This 39-1 test aircraft was virtually flown in a simulator for six months before its first actual flight.

Operative validation for demonstrating future system solutions

In the simulator of the future for operative validation, we will have the capability to perform aircraft development together with our customers per the specifications.

This will be a challenge for our customers who order complete aircraft systems. It can sometimes be very difficult to determine if one capability is more desirable than another, and how the various capabilities are to optimally interact.

With this working procedure, a customer first defines clear and exact parameters. These can be for maximum speed, weight, weaponry, braking distance and so forth. Once these limit values or operative parameters have been defined, the mandatory requirements have also been defined. After this, testing can continue with how other parameters can be varied to create a system that the customer is satisfied with, regardless of if a limit value concerns a minimal cost or short braking distance, and even shows a whole that provides maximum combat capabilities.

The parameters can be varied in the simulation for different function models to optimise the design of the complete aircraft. It is this optimised design that is the starting point for the next step. All subsystems have now been defined with clear requirements, and the suppliers can be contacted for each specific subsystem. Together with the respective suppliers, the system's functions are defined in more detail.

By collaborating with customers in this way at an early stage, Saab can work with them in verifying how each individual subsystem will function once it is implemented.

Saab works in a similar way with suppliers and partners in integrating and developing apparatus models of subsystems and weaponry.

Demonstrating final results at the beginning of system development

It will also be possible to work with suppliers in the same way as work is conducted with customers, entailing that the suppliers will utilise function models of the subsystems that are to be developed. In collaboration with Saab, capabilities are defined for the respective subsystems. This work should be conducted in a facility for operative validations.

From these function models, each supplier obtains the functional requirements for its system. These types of models cannot be directly used in actual implementation of a subsystem in a development simulator. They can however, be used as interim solutions while the relevant apparatus models are being produced.

All design data and requirements for an aircraft’s subsystems are now defined in the function models that represent the aircraft's subsystems.

Apparatus models are used in the next phase of development work in development and training simulators. The apparatus models are produced by the suppliers.

To finalise tender negotiations for an aircraft's subsystems, suppliers are tasked with the delivery of apparatus models that fully reflect the actual subsystems’ functions.

These models constitute both the design drawings and documentation for the complete subsystems, along with the associated hardware for the systems that will be integrated into the aircraft.

Working in this way, final results can be demonstrated at a very early stage in system development, and in a credible and extremely detailed manner.

Proactive system integration provides concrete proof of the viability of final products

Once a supplier has delivered an apparatus model it is integrated into a software-based development simulator.

Acceptance testing is conducted in this simulator before beginning procurement of the subsystem. The working procedure also entails that verification can be performed with the customer as to how each individual subsystem will function when the actual system is implemented.

At this stage, a final joint check of functionality can be conducted by Saab and the customer, and by Saab and the supplier. The procurement process can now begin for the respective subsystems. When an actual subsystem has been implemented, it is verified once more against the apparatus model.

A stage has now been reached at which a complete virtual aircraft has been designed with the actual subsystems integrated and verified. In this phase, the first version of the conceived aircraft has been created, which entails that there is now a complete aircraft simulation.

There is also the opportunity to build a master of the training simulator at an earlier stage than today, where the customers’ pilots can begin learning out about development of the actual aircraft functions of the finished aircraft.

By comparing performance and functions in this training simulator against the results from a conducted operative validation, it can be ensured that the first part of system integration is in compliance with the requirement specifications. For system development, this means that the boundary between development simulators, training simulators and aircraft has begun to be less distinct. It is solely a matter of which platform is chosen to most effectively conduct development, testing or training.

If working model-based, the high-level requirements can now be verified against an operative scenario. These requirements are the basis of the entire development chain, from collaboration with the customer during operative validation to finished aircraft with a training simulator.

With a model-based working procedure, there is now a defined “language” for communication between partners, customers and suppliers.

Positive effects of this are that cost-efficiency and quality are significantly increased, at the same time as the technical and financial risks are minimised.

Consequently, the cost of developing much more advanced operative and tactical functions than what are presently available today will also be dramatically decreased.

The development cycle for the implementation phase for an aircraft becomes substantially shorter, and the risk of problems with obsolescence during production of the first test aircraft is dramatically reduced. This alone has the effect of the system will become operative in a shorter time than with today’s development methodology.

Another positive effect is that the life cycle for the product will increase by those years that would otherwise been spent on testing. The working procedure with validation at an early stage strongly contributes to creating opportunities for easier upgrades of the avionics system to extend the product’s life cycle at a significantly lower cost than today.

Automatic verification of aircraft function in real time

Flight testing in the future will be conducted in a shorter time because the number of test flights will be fewer and be performed with greater efficiency in the evaluation of flight testing results.

With aircraft simulation, a master model has been created for how an aircraft functions; the simulator theoretically defines how the aircraft is expected to perform.

The first step is to use a master model on the ground for flight testing. By aircraft data being sent to the ground and entering the data in the aircraft simulation on the ground, it can be assured in real time that the aircraft’s systems are working as intended.

During flight testing the aircraft simulation can be used to warn and inform the pilot of any deviations. There will also be capabilities for automatically verifying large portions of aircraft function during flight. Data from the aircraft simulation and from the aircraft are simultaneously recorded and later compared to verify each tested system.

Sensors determine aircraft state of health

The next step in development is integrating the aircraft simulation in the aircraft.

Because the aircraft simulation is used when developing actual systems, the aircraft simulation on board the aircraft can be considered as virtual reality and the aircraft as actual reality. It is ensured that the aircraft simulation calculates ideal behaviour in real time.

This enables the actual behaviour to be measured and that the data is entered in a monitoring system. The monitoring system can calculate in real time and show the deviations displayed by the aircraft in comparison to the expected behaviour. The system is used for the aircraft’s error monitoring and redundancy management, and informs the pilot when deviations occur.

The robustness of future systems will also dramatically increase due to the constant capability to utilise the latest available technology at a low cost.

With this monitoring system analysing all available data via the aircraft's sensors, as well as data from the aircraft simulation, the system can determine the aircraft's state of health and help the pilot to make the correct tactical decisions should the aircraft's operative capabilities be degraded.

An example of this can be if the landing gear indicates that a linkage component or ball bearings are binding. This is detected by the plate to the left of the landing gear attachment moving a little more than usual. It is also taking more time than usual to lower the landing gear on the left side and the pilot is notified of this in a compiled form that reads “binding in bearings for left landing gear”. A unique opportunity is provided for detecting hidden faults that would otherwise have required a maintenance inspection on the ground.

A very basic principle is that each model has all information and metadata about the system it represents. This is actually the same principle that we see in nature for biological systems.

At this stage, the prerequisites have also been created that are necessary for implementing artificial intelligence in the next step to further assist the pilot with situational awareness of the system's operational capability. One of the absolutely most important goals is to achieve increased efficiency and quality, while at the same time, minimising risks.

Information security for sharing aircraft-specific data

Med det nya arbetssättet finns absolut kontroll över den information som finns i modellerna. Den flygsimulering som nu är under framtagning för att klara multikund och multisite-utveckling, har en systemarkitektur som är fullt modulariserad och skalbar. Man kan nu delge en enskild underleverantör en flygsimulering, som bara består av underleverantörens eget system och det gränssnitt som systemet ska arbeta mot. Samtliga modeller är strikt behörighetsstyrda och separerade. Farkostspecifika data är strikt behörighetsstyrda och separerade från modellerna.

Detta innebär att den enskilda kunden, underleverantören eller utvecklaren enbart kan ta del av den information man har rättighet till. För Saab är informationssäkerhet en mycket viktig förtroendefråga som alltid förtjänar att poängteras, säkerhetsarbete utgör en av de grundpelare Saabs verksamhet är baserad på.

Strengthened operational capabilities

Strengthened operational capabilities can be achieved at a previously unknown level by quickly implementing operational analyses and through simple adaptation of the systems for new conditions.

Capabilities for rapid modifications can be very important to pilots. This can entail the capability to make the necessary modifications to an aircraft's functions in less than a day and preferably within a few hours.

Capabilities to interact with tacticians on the ground will be further developed. The tacticians can analyse and test various alternatives for conducting a mission in real time when the conditions have suddenly changed. Once an analysis has been performed, new mission data can be transmitted to the aircraft that are to conduct the operative mission.

A mixture of operative validation and a training simulator is used for this tactical support, with the simulator even having the capability to fly virtually thanks to link capabilities between the aircraft and the simulator. Training systems are thus adapted for use for this type of scenario training as described by the concept Live Virtual Constructive (LVC).

This is based on further development of established training concepts such as “train as you fight – fight as you train”; in other words, embedded training and augmented reality. Saab has created enormous opportunities within the framework of existing system environments, for developing capabilities based on customers’ creativity and visions.

Historical example: A good example of what can be achieved with a simulator that can “fly along” to provide mission support can be found in the story of the Apollo 13. The call for help, “Houston, we have a problem” can serve as the introduction to the most well-known incident in the history of space travel, in which a simulator was utilised to solve problems created by an unanticipated event.

When the crew of the Apollo 13 was to activate the capsule for the return into the Earth's atmosphere, it was discovered that it had failed to activate. To support the crew in the capsule, one of the astronauts from the Apollo 13’s backup crew used the simulator to test alternatives for activating the capsule.

Full Functionality at a Given Cost

The following account describes the extensive operations that Saab has conducted in providing customers with effective, long-term maintenance solutions. Considerable experience and expertise have been gained over the years. This section explains how Saab developed a concept at the end of the 1970s for providing customers with maintenance services based on flight hours. The concept was called Parts Exchange Program PEP. This concept was made available to customers operating the civilian passenger aircraft Saab 340 and Saab 2000 produced by Saab.

This concept has now been established for military aviation as well with Performance Based Logistics (PBL), a service that gives customers full functionality at a given cost. This service was started with a PBL contract for the SK 60 trainer aircraft and has later included the JAS 39 Gripen.

Described below is a journey of change for maintenance solutions, in moving from the civilian market (PEP) to the military market (PBL).

Maintenance solutions for the civilian market - PEP

When the Saab 340 programme was started in 1978, it was not just an era of technological development for passenger aircraft that was initiated, but also development of new business concepts for customer support. This entailed development and adaptation of both operations and the work force to these new conditions.

During the start-up phase, the majority of the personnel came from an organisation that was 95 percent oriented to working with the Swedish military. This necessitated a cultural revolution of sorts to handle the large number of civilian customers all over the world, including airlines.


To accomplish this, several key positions were created in the customer support function at Saab that would handle customers’ maintenance needs for their aircraft in various parts of the world. Those filling these positions had experience from the civilian commercial market. To develop the services and customer care functions, an extensive training programme was conducted. This included training related to products, customers, business concepts, etc. The programme was implemented so as to prepare all concerned for the new conditions. Visits were regularly made both to established and prospective customers to obtain knowledge and experience of each customer's special needs and wishes.


Competition in sales of new aircraft and leasing in the Saab 340 class was extremely tough, which entailed very tight margins. The competition for the initial package was mainly from Saab’s own apparatus suppliers.

Tendering the initial package required a comprehensive approach by Saab to meet the tough competition. There were also services here concerning publications for technology and product utilisation, various types of training, as well as support at operator sites.

To attain lucrative operations, the support and after-market functions needed to generate the requisite revenue and profits. An analysis was therefore conducted of various business opportunities, and this resulted in offering customers an initial package of replacement units (LRUs and SRUs) and spare parts.

Customers’ preferred supplier

Saab's strategy of becoming the customers' preferred supplier of initial packages, enabled the company through the purchasing agreements for apparatuses for production, the opportunity to purchase additional replacement units and spare parts at advantageous prices.

To become a customer's preferred supplier for future provisioning of replacement units, repairs and maintenance, various types of activities and advantageous arrangements must be offered. Here as well, Saab competes with apparatus suppliers and independent repair facilities. Engine manufacturers in the aircraft market have always had business arrangements directly with customers and operators, but not via aircraft manufacturers.

This also applied to the Saab 340 programme, with General Electric (GE) having a service concept called the Engine Care Maintenance Program. The concept entails that all maintenance, repairs, modifications, updates, etc. are performed by GE or by GE contracted shops. Customers pay an agreed amount per flight hour for this under a so-called Power-by-the-Hour contract. The contract also includes stipulations for handling, returns, exceptions, etc.

To establish profitability and to become customers’ preferred supplier, Saab made the decision to establish a Power-by-the-Hour concept with the Parts Exchange Programme, PET. This programme in principle, covered all other repairable units (LRUs and SRUs) in the aircraft.

Customers’ needs for initial packages are minimised and consequently initial costs, which is especially important for small and medium-size operators. A contract drawn up between Saab and a customer includes a list of covered units. The contract also stipulates the flight hour price that the customer pays per hour of flight. There is a corresponding concept for the Saab 2000, both from Saab and the engine manufacturer Allison.

Saab's goal was to support both major airlines as well as operators with just a few aircraft, and consequently become their preferred supplier for all types of spare parts and service. Work was continuously conducted with upgrades and modifications to decrease maintenance costs and to improve operational reliability. Saab also offered services for simplified administration and replacement when critical needs arose for spare parts supply.

Maintenance solutions for the military market - PBL

Major operational and maintenance arrangements in both the military and civilian sectors were established with the participation of public and private parties in PPP solutions (Public-Private Partnerships). Armed forces outsource all training, operational and support activities.

Public-private partnerships constitute a political goal. This goal was first formulated in a Swedish bill from 2004 with the objective of transferring public operations to the private sector. The intention was to gain greater efficiency and to save money for the Swedish state.

OPS solutions in this context entail that industry is tasked with what was previously conducted by the Swedish Armed Forces. Because there are no special rules for OPS solutions in the EU's procurement directive, OPS solutions are procured in accordance with the Swedish Public Procurement Act (2007:1091). This act regulates purchases made by Swedish government agencies and in certain cases, organisations that receive public funding. The act is based on the EU directive 2004/18/EC.

Based on experiences from the Saab 340 and Saab 2000, Saab decided to offer an additional expanded support concept to Saab's military customers. The concept is called PBL, Performance-Based Logistics.

By utilising the experience gained in the civilian market for maintenance solutions, solutions could be provided to military customers by applying the principles of Power-by-Hour contracts.

This arrangement could now be directed to the Swedish Armed Forces with the SK 60 and JAS 39 Gripen aircraft, as well as to Saab's export customers for the JAS 39 Gripen. Saab was among the first to offer such an arrangement to the military market.

Goal of PBL

The goal of PBL was to gain a significant reduction in the overall costs for maintenance of the Gripen in long-term agreements. Saab would guarantee reduced turnaround times corresponding to less than 30 days rather than the more than 100 days that was common at the time.

To achieve cost reductions, a number of measures had to be taken to rationalise and streamline operations. Examples of such measures are:

  • Reducing transfers between different organisational units.
  • Ensuring lower costs for spare parts for apparatus maintenance.
  • Improving performance capabilities.
  • Reducing customers’ personnel costs.
  • Creating work methods and conditions for further streamlining.

Basic idea behind PBL

The basic idea behind the decision to work with PBL was that support for the Gripen would provide a competitive advantage.

The Gripen system is designed for minimal support requirements – low LCC (Life Cycle Cost). Low LCC for customers can become a form of LCI (Life Cycle Income) for Saab.

The Swedish Armed Forces and the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration were to be motivated to redefine the interface with Saab as a comprehensive undertaking. There was also the goal of replacing the 1-year enhanced maintenance agreements with agreements of 5–10 years.

Saab decided to create an organisation in the Saab Support and Services business area that would focus on support agreements and market-adapted maintenance, and ensure corresponding business development.

Saab could consequently provide opportunities for transfer of personnel from the customer’s staff, taking responsibility for training and for managing information through the use of various IT systems, such as systems for maintenance ground support. Saab could also ensure that the development of logistics services kept pace with technological developments.

Decisions and customer approval

To conduct procurement in accordance with the OPS and PBL concepts, the Swedish government had to approve procurement initiation.

This came about through an interpellation (2006/07:364) submitted to the Swedish Parliament regarding interpretation of Article 296 in the treaty regulating defence procurement. Minister for Defence Mikael Odenberg was responsible for this.

In this interpellation, the following was described: “Article 296 in the EC treaty provides member states with the opportunity to not apply the regulations for public procurement upon procurement of defence products under certain conditions.”

The government later decided on 23 March 2006 to task the Swedish Armed Forces and the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration with taking cost-saving measures.

The figure below illustrates the principles and guidelines that the Swedish Armed Forces had issued for the management of Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Source the Swedish Armed Forces.

Allocation of responsibility concerning customers and users

The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration was commissioned by the Swedish Armed Forces to enter agreements with Saab. In its capacity as a contractual party in relation to Saab, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration is responsible for the Swedish Armed Forces’ commitments to the same degree as for its own.

The decision was made to establish an agreement on the following:

  • For the SK 60 aircraft, all services would be included in a PBL agreement to be in effect during the years 2008–2017.
  • For the Gripen, the agreement would encompass services for logistics and maintenance.

PBL implementation

After the decision by the government, collaboration was initiated between Saab and the Swedish military establishment. Saab created an integrated project team for working with the customer and to gain the approval of both parties.

They agreed on input values and solution elements that could be included in a future undertaking. The team also decided on a number of principles and measures for offering substantially expanded service undertakings in accordance with the PBL concept. The following were defined:

  • How contacts are to be created that benefit both parties through commercial benefits and taking a long-term approach. This would establish the conditions for cost sharing if Saab gained a broader customer base.
  • How a flexible industrial base is to be established with abilities for supporting deployed military units and contributing to maintenance, development and production capabilities for the Gripen system on an internationally competitive level.
  • How it is assured that the Swedish Armed Forces and the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration would continue to have sufficiently high technical expertise to participate in operative missions and to be able to function in their role as procurers and users of defence materiel in the years to come.
  • How a new after-market concept would permit the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration to begin working on a higher system level.  The figure shows how cost and capability would be developed with PBL.

To be able to achieve potential savings and improvements, relatively high organisational maturity is required from the start. Also required is continuous organisational and skills development by both parties. The concept also necessitates very close collaboration between the parties, in principle, continuous work in an integrated project team.

Saab's undertaking

Saab undertook to deliver logistics and maintenance services, sustained engineering and support regarding weapon system 39 for the Gripen to Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand to assure efficient operation. The arrangement required close collaboration between the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration and the Swedish Armed Forces to achieve the desired efficiency and security.

To perform this undertaking, Saab formed a business capability team (BCT). This team included personnel with considerable knowledge of several fields of expertise, including business development, modelling, risk management, organisational and improvement management, and business management. The purpose of this was to support and assure an optimal OPS solution throughout its entire life cycle. The goal was also to create a win-win situation for all concerned through well-identified and quantified key figures that would be monitored.

The business capability team was staffed with the most skilled personnel in OPS business operations. Moreover, work was structured in the team so that a learning organisation was created.

Work was also begun with changing methodologies at Saab. It was necessary to formalise control and management, and to effectively coordinate three Saab business areas.

This entailed the need to implement a “basic price culture” instead of continuing with an “open account culture”. Moreover, it was necessary to clarify responsibilities to attain manageability for systematically reducing the number of transfers. This enabled increased efficiency and simplified interaction with existing project and line organisations.

Benefits and effects

Which benefits and effects are gained by this form of agreement and this way of working?
A reference cost has been defined for maintenance costs. This has been calculated to ensure that cost comparisons between existing working procedures for support and PBL are relevant.

A number of checks have been made and it has been determined that the cost savings were of the magnitude of 20–30 percent. The goal was 10–15 percent.

After evaluating the experiences, it has been shown that the most important success factors can be described as follows:

  • Engaging the organisation both with the business-related arrangement and the new working procedures.
  • Being able to break down established structures and transfers.
  • Packaging key figures so that clarity is gained in solution proposals and traceability in costs.
  • Being able to describe how business is actually created in generic structures, e.g. by defining work in a work breakdown structure. In this way, it can be shown how new working procedures are to be implemented.
  • Having one person with complete responsibility, from idea to delivery, is essential for creating financial and delivery accountability.
  • Finding people with the right attitude who see opportunities and not problems.
  • In the shops, it was important with leadership matters and structuring of flows. Improvements were made by implementing a Lean approach. In this way, work could be conducted with continuous improvements and a minimum level was also assured for all work.
  • Assuring optimal purchase contracts with subcontractors.
  • Establishing good references for measuring and following up changes and improvements of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).

Press release

Gripen, PBL, 31 August 2012

Saab signed a support and maintenance agreement, Gripen PBL, with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) in June.

The PBL agreement (Performance Based Logistics) that was signed at the end of June encompasses support and maintenance of the Gripen system in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand, and will be in effect through 2016. The contract is valued at approximately SEK 3 billion, including options.

Saab receives order for Gripen support and maintenance from FMV, 3 July 2013.

The defence and security company Saab has received an order from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) for reserve materiel regarding the Gripen for the years 2014–2016. The order's total value amounts to approximately SEK 184 million.

This new order for the three-year period provides options for placing suborders and has been configured within the framework of the previously signed agreement with FMV, Gripen PBL (Performance Based Logistics), which encompasses performance-based support and maintenance for the Gripen.


By establishing a progressive, sustainable and business-oriented approach to service and maintenance at the close of the 1970s, viable and profitable operations were created for the Saab 340 and Saab 2000 fleets. These operations have continued and been refined during the 2000s. This has created the conditions and experience for establishing a corresponding and expanded portfolio for Saab's military customers in Sweden and abroad.

Saab's organisation has been successively adapted to being able to execute this modified approach to business operations related to support.

Customer opinions

The following very abbreviated description is taken from various sources and publications from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV): From 2009, it was ascertained that:

The Swedish Armed Forces is buying flight time from a private supplier for its pilot training. All of the Swedish Air Force's SK 60 aircraft remain the property of the State, but the responsibility for keeping the aircraft in airworthy condition rests with the supplier Saab.

The agreement for the Swedish Air Force's SK 60 trainer stipulates a comprehensive undertaking. There is at least a 95 percent probability that aircraft are ready for flight at the agreed time. Saab determines how this is to be accomplished. The FMV serves in a supervisory role on behalf of the Swedish Armed Forces to ensure that the supplier fulfils its obligations. The FMV will have no technical responsibility for the SK 60 system in the future. Operational disturbances, spare parts, modifications, etc. are matters for the supplier.

The aircraft remain the property of the Swedish state. Should the supplier fail to comply with the terms of the agreement, the Swedish Armed Forces is entitled to take back operations. Everything is meticulously regulated in the agreement. This is also something new for the supplier Saab, and the defence industry has followed the project with substantial interest. For the industry, it has been of major principle significance. All SK 60 aircraft are included in the procurement. The majority of the aircraft fleet is stationed at the flight school in Malmen, and each squadron has a number of aircraft for transport purposes and target flights.

SK 60 trainer aircraft, which is a comprehensive undertaking, is the first larger example of what can become a continued orientation. But it is only suitable for an industrial comprehensive undertaking in certain areas. If for example, systems for weaponry are involved, it becomes more complicated. It is not suitable either for systems that are deployed in combat, or for systems in which development is rapidly progressing. The systems must be stable and there should be coordination benefits with other private activities.


The author´s reflections