Replacing Sweden’s Hercules fleet

 

The Swedish Air Force’s ageing fleet of six Hercules aircraft desperately needs an upgrade; otherwise the planes will be grounded.

However, the government has yet to make a decision. In the meantime, the Air Force is looking at new aircraft. “We need a plane for tactical transport. For example, we need to be able to move troops, defence equipment and be able to strengthen capabilities (ed.) on Gotland quickly. Since we need the new planes by around 2024, a decision needs to be made soon,” says Mats Helgesson, the Swedish Air Force Chief of Staff.

One of the most interesting alternatives comes from Embraer, Saab’s Brazilian partner.

Huge orders rolling in

Volvo-owned Mack Defense has received two major orders for 1,500 trucks from the Canadian Armed Forces. The deal is worth SKr 5 billion.

Communication director for Volvo Group Governmental Sales Grégoire Verdon, says, “One of the pillars in our strategy is to develop business in other parts of the world… Canada is an example that our strategy is giving results.”

This is first time Volvo has succeeded in selling a European truck to a defence customer in North America. “This is a good opportunity to show our group’s abilities,” says Grégoire Verdon.

Volvo in arms deal

The Volvo group has received an order to supply combat vehicles to Syria’s neighbour Lebanon, reports DI. The funds for the order come from Saudi Arabia and the vehicles will be produced in Renault Trucks’ plants.

The deal would have been impossible in Sweden, but in France Volvo has received help of the government. The order is signed by Volvo/Renault Trucks and Odas, a marketing company set up by the French government and arms exporters in 2008 (ed.).

According to DI, Saudi Arabia has informed Odas and Volvo that the deliveries are to be stopped since Hezbollah has gained too much influence over the Lebanese government. The paper suggests that the vehicles could end up in Saudi Arabia.

Embargo lift opens for Gripen

The USA’s decision to remove the arms embargo on Vietnam could open the door for major Swedish arms deals with the country. This kind of deal has not previously been possible, as the embargo has included systems that have American components, such as the Gripen.

Christer Ahlström, director general for the Inspectorate of Strategic Products (ISP) says that it is theoretically possible but adds that any such deal must have Swedish approval. “We have had a restrictive view of Vietnam with our guidelines. We should also weigh up the situation for human rights,” he says.

Saab press spokesperson Sebastian Carlsson says that Saab is monitoring developments.

New torpedo order for Saab

Defence company Saab has received a SKr 1.5 billion order from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). The new lightweight torpedo system, which has been ordered for the Swedish Navy, will be able to be used by submarines, surface vessels and helicopters.

Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist (S) says, “This means that a project that was significantly delayed finally looks like it will be realised.” The system is expected to be complete and ready to go into service around 2022-2023.

Stinging criticism of submarine

Sweden’s new submarine A26, of which the state has ordered two from defence group Saab, has been harshly criticised. The criticism focuses on a portal, fiercely marketed by Saab, which can release divers and special forces into the water. Former commander and head of the three Swedish Näcken-class submarines, Nils Bruzelius, says that the portal cannot be used in the situations it is designed for.

However Mats Eolfsson, from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), which has paid almost SKr 8 billion for the submarines, has dismissed the criticism saying the portal is flexible and could also be used for new weapons.

Saab adjusts sales prognosis for Gripen

Saab boss Håkan Buskhe is revaluing the forecast for sales of the Gripen fighter jet over the next twenty years.

Last week Finland took a crucial step towards acquiring new fighter jets by sending out an inquiry to Sweden, USA, UK and France about what they have to offer. SvD reports that Finland’s plans for new aircraft is only one example of a number of countries looking to renew their air forces.

Saab had estimated selling around 450 Gripen fighter jets in the next twenty years. However Saab president Håkan Buskhe now says in addition to the coming 450 E/F versions to be supplied to Sweden and Brazil’s air forces starting 2019, there are current C/D versions that the company expects to sell. Buskhe considers Slovakia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bulgaria as possible buyers.

Norway strikes Saab a blow

The Saab defence group’s hopes of supplying Norway with future submarines were dashed on Thursday, when Norway’s Ministry of Defence said it had shortlisted Germany’s Thyssen Krupp and France’s DCNS as possible suppliers.

Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said that a submarine cooperation with either France or Germany would ensure that Norway would get the submarines it needed, while contributing to “a more efficient armaments cooperation in NATO”.

The minister also made clear that Norway would be willing to cooperate with other countries in need of new submarines, namely the Netherlands and Poland.

Growing interest in fighter jet

“Interest in the Gripen is greater than ever. We have a handful of countries that are interested in the Gripen E and F (one-seat and two-seat versions). We are in a situation where we are the only ones in the Western world who are developing a new fighter aircraft,” said Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe when he presented the company’s Q4 report yesterday.

India is one of the countries to which Saab hopes to sell the Gripen, and the company has stressed that it is prepared to meet India’s demand that the aircraft be manufactured in the country. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (S) will visit India 13-14 February where he, along with Håkan Buskhe and a Swedish industry delegation, will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Commenting the development of a new trainer aircraft in a bid to win a US Air Force contract, Mr Buskhe told investors. “Our cooperation with Boeing is going extremely well and we have a concept that we are convinced will change the ‘training world’. We are very sure that we will be able to win contracts”.

Saab posted a profit after depreciation of SKr 1.34 billion for the fourth quarter. Sales amounted to SKr 10 billion, an increase of 36% on the corresponding period in 2014.

India may control Gripen’s future

Earlier this month Saab launched a campaign to sell the Gripen fighter jet to India. CEO Håkan Buskhe was in New Delhi, along with Ulf Nilsson, the head of Saab’s aeronautics division.

This is no small deal we are talking about, comments Svenska Dagbladet. While Sweden has ordered 60 new Gripen E fighters, Brazil 36 and the Czech Republic has just signed an agreement on an upgrade of its 14 fighters (ed), India is probably looking at buying 200. This would certainly boost Saab’s sales, but the company could also lose some control over the fighter jet’s future development to India, according to journalist Tomas Augustsson, who also points out that the process is likely to be long and complicated, and may come to nothing. “And until then, what happens in smaller, neighbouring countries, on their way to acquiring new fighter jets, is more important,” he writes.