Saab Grintek Defence growing as global EW player

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Saab’s South African facilities form a critical part of the Group’s microwave production capability and Saab Grintek Defence is, amongst others, tasked with producing some of the microwave components for the antennas and electronic warfare components of the Gripen fighter jet for the international market.

Saab Grintek Defence (SGD) said it is currently assembling these parts for the current generation Gripen at its facilities in Centurion outside Pretoria.

The Gripen E/F (Gripen Next Generation – NG) features things like AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, IRST (Infrared Search and Track) sensor and the ability to supercruise. It also carriers a wide variety of weapons, has a more powerful engine with increased fuel capacity and greatly improved avionics.

Brazil has ordered 36 Gripen E/Fs while the Swedish air force is planning to take delivery of 60 Gripen Es from 2019. The first aircraft is due to be rolled out during 2016. Saab estimates there is the potential to sell between 300 and 450 new generation Gripens. As one of Saab’s microwave production houses, this provides a lot of business for Saab Grintek Defence and accounts for around 8% of sales.

Chris Skinner, head of marketing and sales at Saab Grintek Defence, told defenceWeb that this production is a result of the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages awarded in the late 1990s that saw South Africa buy 26 Gripens. As part of offset requirements, Saab invested in local companies which today includes Saab Grintek Defence. Skinner maintained that Saab backing has helped position the company for increased international export sales tremendously and the company today has turnover in excess of a billion rand a year and employs 700-800 people. 80-90% of this revenue is from foreign orders.

One of SGD’s main sources of turnover is the Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS), which has done well in India, where it is being fitted onto the Air Force and Army’s Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters.

SGD also developed and are producing the LEDS self-protection system for land vehicles. The LEDS 50 Automated Softkill System provides the crew with laser warning when a threat laser emission is detected and allows for automated deployment of effectors like multispectral screening smoke and active signature management. It can also cue a vehicle’s turret weapons e.g. the main gun for counter-fire.

The LEDS 150 active protection system uses radar sensors to detect incoming enemy fire and fires a small missile to neutralise an incoming enemy round before it hits the vehicle. However, due to cost, Saab has paused development until a partner is found. Skinner said that Saab has spoken to three very interested potential partners but nothing has materialised yet and the search for a partner to complete development continues.

Skinner said he was extremely upbeat about 2015, saying that SGD has secured quite a few orders this year so far. The company secured a large order in Europe two weeks ago and is optimistic about further LEDS 50 orders.