Saab has supplied the South African Air Force’s Gripen fighter fleet, and will maintain the aircraft for their 40-year active life. But that’s not the full extent of the company’s involvement in this market: Saab has deep roots in South Africa and an ambitious plan to grow business in the rest of the continent.

South African technology has been used to make the South African Air Force’s Gripen fighter jets more relevant for local conditions – and it could see service in other countries’ fleets as well, says Saab Grintek Defence country manager Magnus Lewis Olsson.

The Electronic Warfare (EW) system developed in South Africa has been included on the Gripens proposed to the Brazilian Air Force. And, although South Africa’s Gripens are the C and D models, the new E models under consideration by Brazil and currently being flown in Sweden will also include the locally-developed EW systems.

In fact, the system has uses beyond military, with relevant for helicopters and commercial aircraft as well, and is exported to a number of countries.

Saab offers a vast range of both military and civil defence products and services, and is actively seeking to grow its operations in Africa.

“We have big ambitions for growth in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Lewis Olsson.

Saab currently operates in South Africa, with its local  company Saab Grintek Defence  a South African company which had consolidated its position on the African market as a leading defence and security company, bringing capabilities including electronic warfare, sensor technology, command and control, training solutions, avionics security and support solutions to the African and international market. Saab also has  offices in Kenya and Botswana, as well as operations  in Somalia. It is also pursuing business opportunities in Nigeria, Namibia, Cameroon, Angola and Mozambique.

Saab has five business units:

* Aeronautics – best known for the Gripen fighter aircraft;

* EDS (Electronic Defence Systems)  – this includes the South African-developed EW system;

* Support and services – this includes either tented or containerised camps, supplies and support;

* Dynamics – this business unit is not represented in South Africa, operating only in Sweden and the US; and

* SDS (Security and Defence Solutions) – this provides software systems and connectivity that includes surveillance cameras, two-way radios, information merging; SDS also does air traffic control systems and remote air traffic towers.