“We See India as an Important Future Market”

“We See India as an Important Future Market”

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Lars Olof Lindgren, Chairperson, Saab India Technologies Pvt Ltd
Lars Olof Lindgren
Chairperson, Saab India Technologies Pvt Ltd

Even as some companies are losing patience with the pace of India’s decision-making process in defence sector and thinking of packing bags, Saab is aggressively chasing the market. In a tête-à-tête with GeoIntelligence, Lars Olof Lindgren, Chairperson, Saab India Technologies Pvt Ltd, tells us why Saab is here to stay

What makes you optimistic about India?
We see India in the long-term perspective, and we are convinced that we have very good products and systems for the Indian defence. We feel that we are the perfect fit when it comes to teaming up with Indian companies. Finding partners in India is also our strategy for the future. We are open to sharing our technology with our partners; we feel there is a definite need for that in India. There are very good conditions for cooperation between the two countries. We see India as an important future market. That’s the reason we feel we cannot just come in, take an order and leave, we are here with a longer perspective – so we don’t see slight downturn as a reason to scale down our operations here. Of course, we will have a different view if, after a few years, we notice that this strategy isn’t working or our way of doing business isn’t right for Indian market. But at the moment, this is not the case. We feel that we are wellplaced to do business here.

Can you tell us more about your strategy for India?
Our strategy for the country is to team up with Indian companies, work with them, and support the development of an indigenous defence industry in India. I think, we are well placed to do that. Also, together with our Indian partners, we would like to develop future generations of products, and provide products for third markets.

When we partner with a company, we look at the long-term perspective. Transfer of Technology (ToT) is also one aspect we do look into. One impressive example of ToT has been the case of Maruti Suzuki. It has been a real ToT with Maruti now producing more cars than Suzuki in Japan. And I think that model should also work in defence field.

What is Saab’s ‘Thinking Edge’ approach?
In a rapidly changing world where new threats continue to emerge, we firmly believe in the right of countries, institutions and individuals to protect their freedom and safety. It is a belief borne out of our history. For over 75 years, our products and solutions have been helping to create safer societies around the world.

We are building on that heritage by empowering our world-class people to break new grounds. By thinking innovatively, we are pushing intellectual and technological boundaries – keeping us ahead of today’s complex defence and security challenges. Our thinking also embodies drive, expertise and trust – the values that help us work collaboratively and pragmatically. But it is the products and solutions that emerge from our thinking that give us a distinct advantage over our competitors – our thinking edge.

What are your offerings to India? What projects are you currently involved with?
We have a broad range of products for all the three services – navy, air force and army. At the moment, we are engaged with a large procurement in ground based air defence field – Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) with RBS 70 NG for all three services, and Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) with Bamse missile system for the army. We are competing for both of them. For the VSHORAD, we are at the end of trials. We hope the decision will come soon. The trials for SRSAM are likely to take place in the first half of year 2014. Those are huge procurements that we are involved in.

We still believe that Gripen is perfect for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Although, we are no longer engaged in any procurement, we feel there is a chance for Gripen as it is a strong and affordable aircraft that would fit perfectly in the IAF. We are also one of the few producers of single engine aircraft in the world.

Are you also offering the aircraft to Navy?
We are looking at the Sea Gripen that would work with aircraft carriers. We feel it would be perfect for the navy because of its size, price and technology.

You are already engaged with Navy in a big way. Can you tell us about it?
While Saab has a long history of working with the Indian government, our entry into the coastal security domain has been through DG Lighthouses and Lightships with the setting up of the National AIS network. We are committed to support the enhancement of this network and also to provide improved C2 capability to strengthen coastal security.

We along with Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company (PDOC) have started a Combat Systems Engineering Group (CSEG) for the development of indigenous combat management systems, structured around Saab’s framework of the 9LV Combat Management System.

Saab also has on offer light weight Optronic Tracking System (EOS 500) and efficient all weather Fire Directing System (Ceros 200) capable of directing a wide variety of guns and missile systems. Over 200 installations of this system are in use by several navies in the world.

We have offered our RBS 15 anti-ship missile to the Indian Navy. This can be launched from land, air and sea, making it suitable for a wide spectrum of threat scenarios. In addition to the missile, we have also responded to the Navy’s RFI for mobile coastal missile systems with the 3D Saab multi-role Giraffe AMB as the primary radar sensor and integrated C2 and RBS 15.

Saab is ready with its Saab 340 MSA (Maritime Security Aircraft) for Airborne Maritime Surveillance. This aircraft is a capable multi-role aircraft that enhances maritime surveillance capabilities and complements the naval and/or landbased surveillance solutions. We have also introduced Skeldar, the rotary wing UAV with capability to operate from ships.

You claim to have an unbeaten capability in the field of Electronic Warfare (EW) and self-protection. Can you tell us about it?
Our EW products span the width of air, sea, land and civil security. For airborne platforms, Saab provides an entire range of EW systems and includes radar warning receivers, missile approach warners, laser warning systems and ELINT/SIGINT systems, fully integrated with self protection jammers and countermeasure dispenser systems. The EW suite on airborne platform are well integrated with other onboard sensors to provide a completely fused picture to the operator for obtaining and maintaining enhanced situational awareness at all times.

On the naval front, our EW solutions include a range of laser warning systems and ESM and ELINT systems for submarine and surface vessels, providing enhanced detection capabilities, full threat identification and strategic intelligence capabilities in a single cost effective solution.

Based on proven EW technology, our integrated solutions provide unrivalled protection for airborne platforms, surface vessels and submarines alike and give you the vital components you need to be prepared, and to maintain the necessary reaction and control capabilities in each and every situation.

All our EW systems are designed to provide exceptional situational awareness with the ability to detect, localise and identify RF based threats. This means you will have the information and decision superiority you need to be on top in the electronic battlefield. If detected, protection from countermeasure systems will mitigate the risks in the hostile engagement in order to complete the mission and leave the engagement zone for a safe return home.

In the land domain also, Saab provides armed forces around the world with first class protection, from a full range of Signature Management Systems to fully-integrated EW solutions and complete security solutions for safeguarding of operational infrastructure.

You are in the process of providing EW solutions for Advanced Light Helicopter? I believe the deliveries for Integrated Defensive Aids Suite are scheduled to commence in 2014. How is it progressing?
Saab has received two orders from HAL, India, for supply of an integrated electronic warfare self-protection system for installation on the Advanced Light Helicopter of Indian Army and IAF. Deliveries are scheduled to commence in 2014. For this order, production of the system will take place at Saab in Centurion, South Africa (Saab Grintek Defence). However, Saab is also in advanced stage of negotiations with HAL for a complete ToT for serial production of these EW systems in India itself, at HAL Hyderabad Division.

Saab has been planning to bring its Rapid 3D Mapping and Skeldar UAV products to India. What is the progress on that front?
We are offering our UAV products to India, including the Skeldar. It is a medium-range VTOL UAV system, can hover for hours while providing real-time information to a control station or to a remote video terminal. It is fully autonomous, commanded by high-level-commands such as “Point and Fly” and “Point and Look”, and designed for a range of land, air, maritime and civil applications. The Skeldar system consists of two air vehicles and a mobile UAV Control Station. Based on operational and technical requirements, the system can be integrated into a wide variety of operations of varied user segments and environments, utilising a common, easy control concept and extremely simple user interface in the context of command, control and payload management. Launch and recovery of the Skeldar requires only a couple of personnel and minimum preparation. With negligible aviation background also, the operator can be quickly trained to use the Skeldar system effectively. Combining a modular design, short turnaround time, built-in test functionality and a multiple choice of payloads increases Skeldar’s high availability and increased airborne time in all weather conditions.

As far as Rapid 3D Mapping is concerned, it is also evolving into a very effective tool for different users in different domains. It has unique applications not only in military operations but also in the civil domain, in city planning, civil security and disaster management etc. Rapid 3D Mapping is a unique product developed by Saab Dynamics, in which an aircraft flies over an area carrying a number of sensors and shortly thereafter generates a photo-realistic 3D model with extremely high geometrical accuracy. Mapping can be done by installing sensors on any fixed wing or rotary platform (including Skeldar) and then getting the 3D map within hours of landing.

We are currently in the process of launching the product and its applications in the Indian market.

The importance of simulation in today’s warfare is well-known. What are the simulation solutions you are providing in India?
We offer an extensive portfolio of training capabilities and simulation products from across the full live, virtual, constructive simulation domains including targetry equipment and range control applications.

In India, there are several simulation programmes that we are already involved in. There is also a growing appetite for simulation and an understanding of the importance of incorporating simulation in training. I foresee that simulation market will grow substantially in the coming years. Specific to what we are offering, we recently showcased our Small Arms Virtual Indoor Trainer (SAVIT) here with a great deal of success. We are also pursuing several opportunities with driving simulators and tactical engagement simulation systems.

We have a lot to offer to this market. For instance, India has a large fleet of armoured vehicles and mechanised forces. At the recent Armoured Vehicles Conference held in Delhi, we demonstrated how we provide full spectrum training of armoured vehicle crews from driving to gunnery and crew simulators in the virtual environment; progressing to instrumented force on force training in the live environment, culminating with live fire gunnery training utilising our Location Of Miss And Hit target systems.

You have recently signed an agreement with Indianeye Security to market Agile Tactical Engagement Simulation (ATES) systems for Indian forces? How do you expect to benefit from this partnership?
Saab has signed a distribution agreement with Indianeye Security Pvt Ltd for marketing and distribution of ATES equipment to Indian armed forces, paramilitary, special forces and the police. Our ATES equipment system will enable Indian armed forces to practice the tactics, techniques and procedures of warfare in an instrumented ‘Force on Force’ training environment. The accompanying Gamer Manpack can record all player positions, firing and event data for use during or after action review. Army officers conducting training can use ATES to create a complete real-time situational awareness of the event as it unfolds.

This further strengthens our current relationship as Indianeye Security uses a Saab platform to impart state-of-art training to Indian police forces and industry. Their knowledge and use of our systems will enable them to be effective advocates and distribution partners for ATES.

What kind of challenges do you face when zeroing in on a partner in India? Where do you think India has an advantage?
As an Indian company, we have only been here three years. There are emerging defence companies in India with whom we can build a relationship after a process of engagement and assessment of mutual capabilities and compatibility. I am very confident that we will have very good partnerships here because there are some basic qualities in many of the companies. That will prove to be very useful in future.

There are a number of advantages in India. First, it is a huge market. Second, it has a large number of highly qualified engineers and administrators. This ensures that technology transfers go from mere handover of hardware to a process of technology absorption that will lead the way for future development in India.

Is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) still an issue?
We should be more clear on FDI. I think higher degree of FDI would very much help India’s ambition of establishing an indigenous defence industry.

What can we expect from Saab in future?
That we are dependable and we are here to stay. We are not here to take one or two big deals and leave. Saab has made a long-term commitment to the Indian market.