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Top guns

Top guns

30/06/2006 | Channel: Aerospace

Saab Aerotech provides full service support for the Gripen fighter aircraft and other key Saab products and equipment.

As one of the world’s leading high-technology companies, Saab’s operations are focused on the defence, aviation and space markets. With operations in over 50 countries across the globe, Saab employs approximately 12,800 employees. Founded in 1937, the group is based in Sweden with over 30 operations in the country.

ESCM spoke to John Belanger and Tony Bjorklund about Saab Aerotech and its work on the group’s flagship project, Gripen. Introducing the group and their particular division, John, vice president of PR and Communications for Saab Aerotech, says: “Saab is a high-tech, defence-oriented company, currently comprised of 15 different business units. Saab Aerotech (SAT) was actually formed from a number of former business units within the group, becoming active in January 2006. Our focus is the aftermarket support of Saab products, equipment and platforms, while also providing a service for a number of other OEM systems and platforms as well. On the regional aircraft side, working with the Saab 340 and 2000, we maintain a current fleet of 500 aircraft worldwide. In addition, we also provide comprehensive component maintenance services for a number of other aircraft types.”

Currently a significant concern of Aerotech, and the Saab group as a whole, is the Gripen project. The Gripen is the world’s first fourth-generation fighter aircraft in active service, and is the most powerful and advanced jet Saab has built. Designed for flexibility, it has a digital structure that facilitates the development of multirole functionality, allowing for practically unlimited upgrades.

Commenting on the project, John says: “Gripen combines Swedish traditional high quality and cost effectiveness in a platform that is dedicated to air-to-air, air-to-ground and reconnaissance missions. It is a flagship product in the group as a whole, and is a significant part of the Aerotech business. The Gripen project involves the activities of several business units within the group. Saab Aerosystems acts as prime manufacturer and integrator, Saab Aerostructures provides structural assemblies and Gripen International provides global marketing and sales. Our part is to provide extensive support capabilities both in Sweden and to the export customers. With Gripen already operating in Sweden and the Czech Republic, and with Hungary and South Africa on the horizon, this is truly a global commitment.”

Describing the services offered by SAT, Tony, sales director, defence products and services for SAT’s Aircraft Services Division, adds: “We provide initial packages that include logistics resources that are required, including ground support equipment, training, publications, field service representatives and a help desk. Together with the initial package we provide dedicated support for the rest of an aircraft’s life, which is a 30-35 year commitment at least.”

Each support package is tailored to the individual situation, providing the best possible service. Tony continues: “For each customer we look at their facilities to see how we can adapt to their infrastructure. This is important as you can’t compare the Czech Air Force with South Africa, because they have different strategies and philosophies; not to mention operating environments.” At the end of 2005, 171 Gripen aircraft had been delivered, with the majority in operation across Sweden and the Czech Republic. By the end of 2006 it will be the standard-bearer of the Hungarian Air Force and 2008 will see operations commence in South Africa.

To provide the highest quality service, Aerotech establishes a local presence in the
countries to work alongside its Swedish headquarters. Tony explains: “You need to be involved locally from the start. For example in South Africa, we are working towards a stronger involvement with the local industry as well as providing logistical support.” Looking to the future of the Gripen project, there is strong potential for further export opportunities, as Saab looks to sell to more countries. John comments: “Gripen International is discussing potential sales with a number of prospects and the future looks bright for even more export customers to operate the aircraft.”

Discussing Aerotech’s impact on the negotiations, Tony adds: “When Gripen International receives requests for aircraft, we provide a consultancy service to ensure the best possible support solution is offered.” While the Gripen is a key part of Aerotech’s business, it does work in other areas, which include a number of opportunities for further growth. John explains: “The Saab group itself is moving
towards a much more international customer base with activities and resources growing on a global scale.”

Sweden remains the group’s primary focus at present, as it looks to support the national military. John continues: “The country is currently reducing their inventory of aircraft, however they are also looking at modifying earlier versions of delivered
aircraft planes to meet the latest standards. In addition, Sweden also has a commitment to collaborate as part of an EU battle group by 2008. These two areas provide a future business opportunity for us.”

Saab Aerotech does not just focus on aircraft, it also provides support solutions to other parts of the military. Tony explains: “We are not just limited to aircraft systems, we also work with navy and army systems. Logistical support has to be supplied to the entire military structure, which gives us the opportunity to provide an integrated
solution.”

In addition to other support business activities and commitments, the Gripen project will remain a predominant focus for Saab Aerotech, as the aircraft’s long life
expectancy requires a significant support commitment to customers. “The Gripen is
going to operate for at least another 40 years,” says John, “and over that period we will see continuous upgrades to the fighter and our services as well.”

Saab Aerotech
www.saabgroup.com
Employees 1800
Industry Aeronautics support