Saab Grintek Defence (SGD) has grown steadily to become a major player in the South African defence industry. The Swedish company’s involvement in South Africa largely came about through the country’s acquisition of the Gripen fighter in 1999, and now the company has around 700 employees at several locations, and a healthy order book.
Many of those orders are for overseas customers, notably in India. Germany and Brazil are also purchasing SGD products, and the company’s sales are growing in the Middle East region. In July the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India’s Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division as part of the “Make in India” initiative. The companies will develop technologies such as self-protection systems for land vehicles.
SGD’s key product lines involve electronic warfare equipment, including integrated defensive aids suites for tactical aircraft and helicopters. SGD’s Cape Town facility also produces signals intelligence equipment for submarines. Command, control and communications systems, and sensor technology, are also important to SGD’s activities.
South Africa also forms an important base from which Saab markets its entire portfolio throughout Africa. The company’s Centurion campus, close to the AAD site, includes a capability development centre, and many of the company’s solutions are available for demonstration throughout the year, including during AAD week.
A focus for SGD is promoting its command and control, training and simulation (C2TS) capabilities for African customers and beyond. Already the new product area is active in Kenya and Namibia, and it is pursuing other opportunities.
The company highlights its ability to collaborate closely with the customer, and its ability to innovate new technology with a rapid response to requirements. Projects can be devised, financed and completed within a year, representing a major difference from more traditional defence procurement programmes.
Security is an important and growing business sector for Saab in Africa. Its SAFE (situational awareness for enhanced security) solution is a mission-critical integrated command, control and communications system that can be applied to various security environments. The system is in use with South Africa’s police force, and also with several in the UK. A related system is TactiCall, a VoIP system that integrates data and voice communications. The South African Navy is a recent customer for this system.
Saab also provides support for the British Army’s training activities in Kenya. From its office in that country the company has also provided third-party maintenance support to United Nations operations in Mogadishu, Somalia. Since 2010, Saab Kenya has maintained a wide range of vehicles – both armoured and soft-skinned – and watercraft used for peacekeeping. The contract has just been extended for another two years, with activities also expanded to cover areas beyond Mogadishu.
Formerly the CEO of SGD, Magnus Lewis-Olsson now heads the Europe, Middle East and Africa market area. As well as opportunities in defence, he sees a number of products that are “right for the African market”.
Among them is the Maritime Security Aircraft, based on the Saab 340 regional airliner. “It’s ideal for protecting offshore oil and for countering piracy. It’s an affordable solution, and there’s a lot of life left in the aircraft – around 40 years.” The aircraft is being targeted at the oil-rich nations, and also at South Africa, which has requirements for a maritime patrol capability.
Border surveillance is another area in which Saab sees opportunity for a variety of its solutions, including both hardware and command and control systems. Security opportunities are growing in countries such as Nigeria.