SAAB - Svenska Aeroplan AktieBolaget
In 1936 the Swedish
government decided to promote the establishment of a domestic defense industry. In response to this and with funds provided by the government Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (trans: the Swedish airplane corporation) was started in 1937. Also in 1937 Aktiebolaget Svenska Järnvägsverkstader (trans: the Swedish railroad workshop corporation) was asked to expand its Linköping
facilities to accomodate future aircraft orders. Aktiebolaget Svenska Järnvägsverkstader (ASJ) was at the time one of the leading aircraft manufacturers in Sweden
. In 1938 SAAB won its first order to build a number of Junkers Ju86K for the Swedish
airforce on license. The next year SAAB and ASJ were competing over an order for a new reconnaissance aircraft for the Swedish
airforce. SAAB came out on top and effectively took over ASJ.
SAAB's first fighter was built in 1943, it was called SAAB 21
and was a radically designed twin-boom tail configuration with a pushing propeller. Right from the outset SAAB was pushing the envelope of aircraft design, just as they were to continue doing for years to come. In 1944 SAAB started it's first civil aviation projects. The SAAB 90 airliner and the SAAB 91 Safir trainer which was delivered to 21 countries. Sweden became one of the first nations to use a jet fighter when SAAB converted the succesful SAAB 21 design in to a jet aircraft in 1945. Another milestone
was set in 1946 when SAAB delivered it's first car
with an unique design developed in a windtunnel i Linköping
. The very aircraft-like design was to set the tone for SAAB cars to come.
In the following years SAAB designed and sold several highly succesful military aircraft beginning with the SAAB J29 Tunnan
fighter and the SAAB J32 Lansen
strike-bomber. One very important development was the use of electronics in Lansen. Flight electronics would be present in all aircraft within a few years and became a big industry for SAAB. In 1955 J35 Draken
became the first Swedish
Mach 2 fighter, it also sported the first double-delta
wing on a production fighter in the world. The next fighter designed by SAAB was the JA37 Viggen
family. Once again SAAB chose an unconventional configuration using a delta and canard design to accomodate for the strict requirements of the Swedish
airforce. Viggen was and still is the only singleengined production fighter with a thrust reverser allowing it to land on extremely short runways.
New businesses and more aircraft
In the 1960s SAAB entered another very important business segment when they began building Rb05 air-to-surface missile. Missiles and missile-systems were to become another staple of the SAAB industry. The SAAB 105 jet-trainer developed in 1967 was quickly adopted by the Swedish
airforce as well as several other airforces. The next year MFI (Malmö FlygIndustri) was aquired bringing with it the MFI 15/17
trainer. SAAB's car business was doing well and in 1969 SAAB-Scania was formed to attempt to break into the Truck/Utility segment. The 70s was a good decade for SAAB, 329 Viggens were delivered to the Swedish
airforce. In 1978 the Swedish
government decided that the Swedish
airforce needed a new multi-role aircraft to replace Viggen, Draken and the aging Lansen. This was to become a project that would bring SAAB both great aclaim and great problems.
JAS and breaking in to the civil market
A the same time as the new multi-role aircraft was being developed SAAB began a new project together with Fairchild
Industries called the SF-340
. This twin-prop regional airliner was to secure SAAB's position in the civil marker and in large respects did just that. More than 400 aircraft were finally delivered to some 40 operators all over the world. This gave SAAB the courage and cash to try it's hand at larger markets. In 1988 the SAAB 2000
project was announced, a even larger turboprop
designed to fly at almost-jet speeds it unfortunately was in most respects a failure. While the aircraft certainly was a viable design and a very cost-effective alternative to jets some unfortunate coincidences conspired to stop the SAAB 2000. In the US
several prop-aircraft had crashed due to engine failures giving the impression that props were not as safe as jets. Also during this time most airliner were investing in large, fast jets to accomodate the anticpated increase in airline passangers. Some SAAB 2000 were eventually sold in 1994. The new multi-role aircraft now called JAS 39 Gripen
was first rolled out in 1987 on the 50th anniversary of the forming of SAAB. The next year it made it's maiden flight.
Gripen gives trouble and SAAB splits up
The 90s began with the last Viggen being delivered to the Swedish
airforce and the creation of SAAB Automobile in a joint venture with General Motors
. SAAB had been building cars for almost 50 years but had not seen it as the primary industry until now. Together with GM SAAB was going to penetrate the highly lucrative US market. In 1992 the Swedish
airforce ordered a second batch of Gripen though no aircraft had yet been delivered. The Gripen project was suffering from seemingly un-solvable problems with the fly-by-wire
system which had led to two highly publicized and most embarrasing crashes. The first crash had happened during the first ever public flight of Gripen. Most Swedes
still remember the sight of the aircraft carving a deep furrow in the grass by the side of the runway and the pilot screaming at the top of his lungs. No one was injured in the accident. The second crash happened during the Water festival of 1995 in Stockholm
. Once again no one was hurt but questions were raised as to the capabilities of SAAB to design a fighter of the complexity needed. But in 1996 Gripen first entered service and despite some problems has proven to be a capable and reliable aircraft.
The splitting continues and Gripen gets a push in the right direction
In 1995 SAAB-Scania was seperated from SAAB and now functions as an independent company within the SAAB sphere. Also in the same year SAAB joined forces with British Aerospace
to adapt and market the Gripen in export markets. This was a big step in the right direction as the expertise of BAe gave Gripen a lot of credibilty as well as a number of improvments. In june 1997 a third batch of Gripen was approved by the Swedish Government making it a total of 204 aircraft. SAAB however was taking a lot of flak because of the raised prices on Gripen which were needed to finance the now floundering civil-aviation department. Because of this the orders received in 1998 from Airbus
to manufacture aerostructures for the A340
was greatly appreciated and saved the jobs of many aerospace workers in Sweden
. The same year SAAB was for the first time listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange
(SAX). BAe bought 35% of the share capital and voting rights in SAAB. November 1998 South Africa
chose Gripen as their new fighter, an intial order of 28 has been placed.
New aquisitions and new projects
SAAB went on a shopping spree in 1999 buying several smaller Swedish
companies. The first and largest was Celsius
, an electronics company which went on to become SAAB Systems & Electronics. Nyge Aero
, a military support and service company was bought as well as Barracuda
Technologies, a leading camouflage technology company. 2000 turned in to a golden year for SAAB, with a new company structure compromising several smaller companies, all highly competent in their respective fields, SAAB was ready to take on the world. At Farnborough
that same year SAAB presented it's "Net Defence" concept and several new orders for air defense systems, combat training centers and a new naval command and control center. Also in the same year SAAB became a partner in the METEOR
missile project. SAAB's success continued in 2001 with Hungary
leasing 14 Gripen and the Czech Republic
placing an order for 24. Several other orders were also secured including missiles to Finland
, combat training centers to Norway
, countermeasure equipment for US Air Force
F-15s as well as more avionics for Gripen. SAAB's future is looking bright indeed, with cooperation on several international projects the company's future seems secure for the moment. The only part of the company having problems is SAAB Automobile which has gone through a number of changes of management. But SAAB will most probably continue to be a proud symbol of the innovation and skill present in Sweden
SAAB's main market is defence and military applications. Some 70% of SAAB's sales are military sales. SAAB is a truly international company with sales all over the world and business partners from all over the world. SAAB is divided in to a number of smaller companies with very specific competences.
SAAB Systems & Electronics
SAAB Systems & Electronics develop an deliver defence electronics with a focus on network-centric warfare. Systems developed include Command and Control systems, Electronic Warfare and Signature Management, Avionics, Training and Simulation and some commercial systems. Employs 2700 and made sales for 3964 million Swedish kronor in 2001.
Developers and manufacturers of JAS 39 Gripen. SAAB Aerospace also delivers other aircraft and subsystems for the military market. Does research in RPV's and future combat aircraft. Employs 4100 and made sales of 4097 million Swedish kronor in 2001.
SAAB Technical Support and Services
Provides service and maintenance to military customers. Also in involved in special flight operations such as target towing and testing of electronic warfare equipment. Employs 3100 and made sales of 3144 million Swedish kronor in 2001.
SAAB Bofors Dynamics
Develops and manufactures missiles and missilesystems of all sorts. Provides missiles for air, ground and naval forces all around the world. Perhaps most famous for the RBS 70 manpad system. Employs 1903 and made sales of 2493 million Swedish kronor in 2001.
SAAB Ericsson Space
SAAB Ericsson Space is Europe's leading independent space equipment provider. Owned jointly by SAAB and Ericsson. Develops computer systems and guidance systems sold to both Europe and the US. Employs 678 and made sales of 800 million Swedish kronor in 2001.
SAAB Aviation Services
Sells and leases SAAB civil aircraft. Also provides service and support for the approximately 500 SAAB aircraft currently in service. Employs 842 and made sales of 1539 million Swedish kronor.
No longer really a part of the SAAB corporation. SAAB Automobile is owned by GM but remains for the most part in Sweden. Develops and sells cars for the middle market segment. Perhaps most famous for the 900 cabriolet. Employs 8522 and sold 126.058 cars in 2001.