Saab seeking LEDS customer


Saab is anticipating orders for its LEDS 150 active protection system at the end of 2015, as it attempts to get a return on its investment in the system. The company is also improving its LEDS 50 laser warning system.

Poland and India are two countries that may possibly buy the LEDS 150 hard-kill protection system. Magnus Lewis-Olsson, President of Saab South Africa, told defenceWeb that Saab had invested a significant amount of company money developing the system and was now looking for a partner/customer for the project. “We need a customer,” he said, adding that Saab was presently speaking to a couple of European countries.

Saab believes that active protection systems will be very popular in the future, especially as rebel forces are becoming increasingly well equipped. Technology is needed to stay one step ahead of the threat, and is making systems like LEDS smaller, lighter and cheaper.

Lewis-Olsson said that LEDS was invented and produced in South Africa, with major investment by Saab Sweden. Now Saab is seeking a partner to complete development, which began in 2006.

The Land Electronic Defence System (LEDS) comes in several different versions, including the LEDS 50 laser warning system, the LEDS 100 with jammer and decoys and the LEDS 150 with the Mongoose-1 counter-munition.

LEDS 100 confuses enemy weapons operators and incoming rounds by deploying smoke, or jamming them with infra-red energy. The system automatically activates in less than 700 milliseconds. The smoke launcher can turn to any hemisphere in less than 100 milliseconds and launch smoke that cannot be penetrated by lasers or thermal imagers.

LEDS 150 claims to destroy incoming anti-tank guided munitions with the Mongoose missile at ranges as close as within 20 metres of the launch vehicle. The munition has in tests deflected 105 mm tank rounds as well as fin-stabilised rods.

Saab recently launched an improved version of the LEDS 50, the Mk II, which features a new LWS-310 MK II sensor that provides an increase in detection sensitivity, enabling the system to detect the guidance energy of the latest generation of laser beam rider missiles at ranges exceeding several kilometres. The LWS-310 Mk II sensor can also tell how far away the range finder is, compromising the position and direction of the threat.

LEDS 50 is currently operationally deployed on the CV 90/35 combat vehicles of the Royal Netherlands Army and has also been evaluated by several Western countries, including the United States. In the latter trial, the laser warning system was used to cue a vehicle’s main gun for counter-fire or to dispense countermeasures.

According to Cobus van Der Merwe, Executive Manager Business Development at South African division Grintek Defence, the improvements to LEDS 50 allow it to defeat all laser-based anti-armour threats, including threats endemic to Africa like the 152 mm Krasnopol guided artillery system as well as fourth-generation anti-tank missiles like the AT-14E Kornet.

Saab told defenceWeb that there was a chance that two LEDS 50 contracts may be awarded by September, including one from Canada.

At present there is little demand for any LEDS type of system from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), but Saab is ready to meet other SANDF requirements. Lewis-Olsson told defenceWeb that Saab was offering its Carl Gustav to the South African Army to meet a future support weapon requirement.

He said that Saab was hoping to get some of its components into the Army’s Project Hoefyster for the Badger infantry fighting vehicle, a production contract for which has been approved. This would involve integrating Saab components like communications and command and control systems.

The SANDF has a requirement to update its radar systems, which is a project Saab can help with, Lewis-Olsson said, especially after Saab bough a UK-based radar house. In addition, Saab has “great hopes” in sub-Saharan Africa for air traffic management systems – a country like Angola has close to 20 airports that could do with better air traffic management equipment.

Ockert van der Schyf, Head of Marketing at Saab Sub-Saharan Africa, told defenceWeb that Saab was hoping for a request for information before the end of this year for Project Chutney, to upgrade SANDF radars.

Saab would like to be involved in many SANDF projects, such as Saucepan, for maritime surveillance aircraft (it would offer the Saab 340 MSA), Projects Sepula and Vistula (armoured vehicles and trucks), Biro (patrol vessels) and the upgrade of the Valour class frigates.

Saab also hopes to sell its Skeldar unmanned aerial vehicle in Africa, especially for things like anti-poaching, anti-piracy and peacekeeping operations – the United Nations is looking to operate UAVs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, van der Schyf cautioned that Africa was a difficult market, with little money and complex or ill-defined requirements.