LAAD 2023 – Embraer and Saab strengthen cooperation looking at the future

Paolo Valpolini

On Day 1 at LAAD 2023, the defence and security exhibition taking place in Rio de Janeiro 11-14 April, Bosco da Costa Junior, the recently appointed President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security, and Saab’s President and CEO Micael Johansson, signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will have short-medium term and longer term implications in the cooperation between the two companies.

The Swedish and Brazilian aeronautical companies started to cooperate in 1997 during the initial phase of the Brazilian fighter bid proposing the Gripen, the delays bringing to the final proposal with the E/F model that won the bid and is now in delivery to the Brazilian Air Force, final assembly of Brazilian-produced aircraft having started in the Embraer facilities in Gavião Peixoto. This is however far from being only an assembly line, as it is also part of the Gripen Design and Development Network (GDDN) and of the Gripen Flight Test Center (GFTC), flight data being analysed in real time in Brazil and Sweden.

In perspective some new contracts might become reality in Latin America, one being a second tranche of Gripens for Brazil, possibly with equal numbers of the first one, while Colombia and Peru are among the countries that are looking at acquiring a new fighter. To this end the Gavião Peixoto facility might become key in answering those requirements, and the Brazilian content in the aircraft manufacturing might well increase. It is also to note that currently Brazil is the only Gripen F customer, therefore activities on the two-seater version of the Gripen E should be done mostly in Brazil. How much special mission versions of the fighter might derive from the two-seater remains to be seen.

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On the other hand Saab will act as a facilitator for spreading the C-390 Millenium transport aircraft designed by Embraer in Europe, firstly in Sweden where the Air Force is starting considering the acquisition of a new air transport capability. The cooperation between the two companies might also bring to the development of new configurations.

However in the longer timeframe the MoU signed at LAAD should encompass activities aimed at developing new technologies, for example to be inserted into the Gripen E/F which life should extend over 2060.

Those technologies, and possibly also other, would be also part of future fighter studies, the Swedish Air Force having recently signed a contract with Saab for a concept study. This shows well that Sweden is not, at least for the time being, interested in partnering with one of the two 6th generation systems initiatives ongoing in the Old Continent.