Saab Dynamics: steady growth, increasing R&D and highlighting the performances of its products at the 2022 Ground Combat Demonstration

Paolo Valpolini

“We are working at the lower level of the infantry, at the squad level, at the platoon level, to give those levels tremendous firepower to be able to engage and neutralise all the threats they might face on the modern battlefield,” with those words Görgen Johansson, Senior VP and head of Business Area Dynamics at Saab Dynamics opened the 2022 edition of the Ground Combat Demonstration, the last having take place eight years ago, when the Carl-Gustaf M4 was introduced.

The event gave the opportunity to delegations from over 30 countries to witness the firings of many of the Business Unit Ground Combat, other BUs part of Dynamics joining in the presentations, among them Training and Simulation as well as Barracuda and Missiles.

Dynamics accounts for around 22% of the overall Saab sales, and in 2021 its revenues were around 8.5 billion Swedish Krona (821 million Euro), with a workforce slightly over 3,000. “In the last few years Dynamics grew constantly, doubling its revenues in five years, and we currently have a record high backlog, worth 2.6 times our yearly revenues, and this is due to an increase in several of our business areas,” Görgen Johansson told a selected group of international journalists during a press conference held at the end of the two-day event. He underlined that following the group reorganisation that occurred in early July 2021, his Business Area added a further BU, Technical Services, which allows providing customers with the full package comprising not only advanced weapons but also after sales support.

Of course February 24th, 2022, is a date that might modify the world in many aspect, and defence companies are considering the potential impacts which for the time being are still to be determined. A major impact was to see one of the Business Area products, the NLAW, in the headings of many of the most important world newspapers due to its performances in the war in Ukraine, following the shipments of such weapons from the UK, the NLAW having been produced under the thrust of the British and Swedish armies.

For the time being the impact on the supply chain is relatively limited, the head of Dynamics underlining that most of the company subcontractors are located in the Karlskoga region or belong to allied nations.

Michael Höglund, Head of Business Unit Ground Combat, the BU mostly involved in the event which brings its name, reinforced Mr. Johansson statement by adding that most of the activities are centred in Karlskoga, which according to him is a major advantage. “In the past years we had a rapid growth, and to keep up with this we are increasing our Research and Development capacities, hiring hundreds of young engineers, and we want to invest even more in development,” he said, R&D investments at BU level remaining undisclosed. He also stated that his BU is heavily investing in the supply chain as well as in improving production efficiency, underlining the know how in a key area, that of warheads, which activities are based in Karlskoga as well as in Switzerland, where Saab Bofors Dynamics Switzerland is based, the two entities working together in the development of innovative warheads. The adoption of 3D printing in the production of some elements is already a reality, and this will definitely extend in the future when new systems will be designed from inception taking in count this new production technology.

Asked about a possible interest in the Loitering Munition field, both Mr. Johansson and Mr. Höglund stated that for the moment the company is not considering those weapon systems, although of course it is monitoring what is happening in that field.

In 2014, when the Carl-Gustaf M4 was presented, Saab Dynamics exhibited a new concept, at that time known as ULM (Ultra-Light Missile), meant to give the Carl-Gustaf a longer range guided capability. Since Saab has teamed with Raytheon Missiles & Defense, and the system, renamed GMM (Guided Multipurpose Munition), was tested in the United States in November 2020. “We demonstrated the technology, which is now at TRL 7, and together with customers we are discussing that concept, awaiting some of them to confirm their interest in order to be able to take it to the next step,” Michael Höglund said.

Coming to the demonstration, the three main subjects were the Carl-Gustaf M4 and the two disposable weapons of the house, the lighter AT4, and the NLAW.

“The Carl-Gustaf changed as enemy anatomy, as the enemy anatomy changed,” Görgen Johansson said in his welcome notes. “The weapon is now in its fourth generation and we constantly add some new capabilities in the form of new munitions, to be able to engage new threats as they emerge on the battlefield, which makes it a true multipurpose system thanks to the different types of combat ammunition now available in four different categories, anti-armour, anti-structure, anti-personnel, and support.” The Carl-Gustaf has roughly 50 users of the Carl-Gustaf, one more, Denmark, having been announced the day after the demonstration ended. The event that took place on Day 1 at the Swedish Army Training Centre in Kvarn and on Day 2 at the Bofors Test Centre in Karlskoga, allowed for the first time the audience to witness the latest evolution of the Carl-Gustaf ; this is composed of the Carl-Gustaf M4, which has built-in communications capacities, combined with the fire control device, the newly developed FCD 558, which is also communication-capable, and the new HE 448 round, the latest generation High Explosive round in the Saab portfolio, which is also able to communicate. This communication capacity allows taking a lot of work out of the operator and into the system, the ballistic equation coming up automatically once the range is provided, this also allowing automatic fuse setting to fully exploit the ammunition airburst capacity.

The AT4 has been produced until now in over one million pieces. Light and easy to use, it has also evolved, and now it is available in seven different types, with anti-armour, anti-structure and anti-personnel warheads. Saab sold the AT-4 to around two dozen users around the world, a new one having been added in early 2022, but more are already being studied.

Coming to the NLAW, this is a true tank-killer as it is capable to deal with tanks in any aspect. Guided by Predicted Line Of Sight. Very fast, it reaches its 800 meters maximum effective range in less than 3 seconds.

Beside the products of the Ground Combat BU, the Training and Simulation BU highlighted the peculiarities of its systems, some of them being installed in the urban training area at Kvarn, while Barracuda unveiled some novelties in the world of camouflage, and Missiles exhibited the Mobile Short Range Air Defence solution, that exploits not only the BU RBS 70 NG missiles but also sensors coming from the other Business Areas of the Saab Group.

Beside Saab entities, two other Nordic companies were showing their solutions, Aimpoint of Sweden and Senop of Finland, both having developed advanced targeting systems compatible with the Carl-Gustaf M4.

Further articles will appear soon on EDR On-Line, providing our readers with deep insights into the numerous topics that we could witness during the Combat Demo event.

Photos courtesy P. Valpolini