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Sweden's Science Sizzles, Draws Bids

November 2000
By Clarence A. Robinson, Jr.

Missile industry restructures to conserve scarce research and development resources.

Forced to go its own way in technology and weapon system development because of a peacetime nonalignment policy and wartime neutrality, Sweden suddenly finds itself the focus of international business attention. Extensive changes are taking place in Sweden’s defense and aerospace industries as foreign interest centers on investment, acquisition, merger and multinational consortium arrangements.

The fourth largest European nation in area, this 8-million-person country on the Baltic Sea chose foreign policy parameters that have forced it to provide its own high-technology weapons. Among these systems are the fourth-generation Gripen multirole combat aircraft, information superiority platforms, new artillery, sophisticated missile systems, and surveillance and targeting sensors. Sweden also excels in the area of electronics and information technology, which underpin all weapons development.

An example of the changes taking place in Sweden is U.S.-based United Defense’s purchase of Sweden’s Bofors Weapon Systems. This trans-Atlantic merger quickly gained approval of regulatory agencies in both Washington, D.C., and Stockholm. Anders Florenius is Karlskoga-based Saab Bofors Dynamics’ vice president for communications and public affairs. He notes that a number of other defense-related acquisitions also are taking place in Sweden that involve European and U.S. companies.

Technical prowess makes Sweden’s industry attractive to outside investment and provides a lure for mergers and collaboration. Even within Sweden, industry continues to adapt to changing market conditions and rearrange itself. Aircraft manufacturer Saab AB made a successful public bid for the entire Celsius Group last year, which included Bofors. “In closing this deal, Saab’s chief executive officer stated that Bofors Weapon Systems should look for another more suitable owner or partner with complementary core business activities,” Florenius continues.

Saab’s business core centers around aerospace and electronics. “Within Saab, the heavy armament of Bofors Weapon Systems does not fit very well,” Florenius observes. “The core activities of Bofors, a very old company established in 1646, is with turrets and gun systems for combat vehicles such as the Leopard 2 tank, which is being delivered to the Swedish army.”

As Saab acquired Celsius, and with it Bofors, the United Kingdom’s BAE Systems bought 35 percent of Saab Celsius, Florenius adds. Saab will retain Bofors Missiles within the Celsius Group for development and production programs. Along with Saab’s acquisition of Celsius and Bofors came a Swedish government position that it makes no sense for two missile companies to compete for scarce research and development resources. The Swedish government’s total annual research and development budget is approximately 4 billion kronas ($400 million).

Florenius claims that Saab realized the advantage of buying the entire Celsius Group and restructuring Sweden’s missile industry. “One of the biggest business areas within the new Saab AB is the Saab Bofors Dynamics—the total missile industry of Sweden within this one company,” he emphasizes.

“In acquiring Bofors Weapon Systems, United Defense is buying the skills and expertise of its engineers located in Karlskoga, where work will continue on various artillery systems and smart projectile development. Bofors Weapon Systems will remain in Sweden under national laws, even with 100 percent ownership by an American company. This could lead to some very interesting events,” Florenius reveals.

He believes that this industry merger trend in Sweden started with the United Kingdom’s Alvis Vehicles buying Hagglunds, Sweden’s main producer of combat vehicles. Then, with BAE Systems’ investment in Saab, Germany’s HDW, which produces submarines, acquired 75 percent of Kockums, a Swedish submarine company, Florenius confirms.

In explaining the defense industry changes in Europe, Florenius notes that Sweden increasingly is taking part in collaborative programs with other nations’ industries in Europe. He cites as a model the multinational development program of the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, a replacement for the AIM-9 Sidewinder (SIGNAL, September, page 33). Development of the Matra BAe Dynamics Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile is another example he mentions. “Sweden’s defense ministry agrees that the country is prepared to pay 12 percent of the development costs of Meteor, which will be similar to the U.S. radar-guided advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM). The European development will keep the Americans out of it.”

Many future military programs will begin in collaboration with other countries, mostly in Europe, Florenius stresses. “Now that there is a trans-Atlantic link between Swedish and American companies in the sense of Bofors, and with BAE Systems, one of the largest companies in the world, the Saab Group is very much international.”

Among Bofors Weapon Systems’ programs, Florenius illustrates, is the 155 Bonus long-range top-attack precision armor destruction system, a cooperative effort with GIAT Industries in France; and the trajectory correctable munitions (TCM), a collaborative project with SAT Incorporated, a U.S. company in San Diego. The Bonus program uses a 155-millimeter self-forging artillery-launched projectile as a top-attack anti-tank weapon. The TCM is also a 155-millimeter round with an onboard guidance system to correct the flight path and compensate for errors. Both the Swedish and U.S. armies are interested in this weapon, he states.

Defense electronics provide information superiority and encompass airborne, ground-based and naval sensor systems, computer systems, avionics and tactical communications. Ericsson, a telecommunications giant with 100,000 employees in 140 countries, provides a glimpse of the technical prowess and interaction between civil and military product development. Ericsson Microwave Systems, Mölndal, is one of the world’s largest suppliers of microwave radio links for communications and a supplier of advanced antenna systems. Microwave technology and signal processing are vital in defense electronics and communications systems.

Ericsson is combining technical advances in electronics, antennas and sensors called tiles—building-block elements that operate in high, medium and low frequencies. The tiles are used to construct arrays that can sense approaching targets from almost anywhere, Maj. Gen. Svante Bergh, SA (Ret.), says. He is Ericsson Microwave Systems’ vice president, defense electronics. These tiles will be used to equip unmanned aerial vehicles and other airborne platforms to connect them directly to networks that are part of a system of systems, he points out.

Noting that the company probably will seek international cooperation when it is time for application of the tiles technology, Gen. Bergh adds that this could be as early as 2005. He also reports that the tiles system will be multifunctional—capable of acquiring and comparing various target signatures while jamming through the same aperture. “This technology is now emerging from the Ericsson laboratory.”

In an era where many people talk about network-centric operations and systems of systems, very few such operational capabilities actually exist, Gen. Bergh illustrates. He maintains that most of the world’s interest is still focusing on platform-centric operations. Network-centricity and all that it implies has not been thought through very well. However, he insists, Ericsson is accelerating its development in this activity, using its considerable strength in both commercial and military electronics and information processing sectors.

The company is concentrating on the development of commercial mobile Internet systems as the basic core for applications to military network systems. “We are doing a lot of work in microwave technology, and this is one of the key elements in the network idea,” Gen. Bergh notes. Ericsson Microwave Systems has 4,000 employees, almost two-thirds of whom are engineers or technicians. Another of the keys in a system-of-systems concept is the use of microwave technology and sophisticated signal processing, which is gaining more momentum in telecommunications systems.

“The operational network must remain active and superior 24 hours a day, independent of weather conditions, and this means that radar will be the only sensor that will work during adverse weather. Other sensors will be complementary, very important but complementary,” the general asserts. “We see ourselves in a key position in dealing with microwave technology, and since we are in defense programs, we understand operational needs.”

He continues that sensors developed by Ericsson such as the Erieye airborne early warning and control system, built with commercial computers, provides long-range coverage over land and sea. A low-weight, fixed, active phased array antenna allows installation on commercial turboprop aircraft, reducing cost. A new radar for the future combat aircraft is being built with an active, electronically scanned array antenna made up of 2,000 modules. Antenna beams, acting individually or in groups, can be aimed in different directions instantaneously.

In addition to being available for immediate use by the pilot during a mission, sensor input is also sent to other airborne platforms and directly into the network grid, where it is managed and disseminated to those who need the information, Gen. Bergh assures. He also refers to CARABAS, which stands for coherent all radio band sensing. It is a synthetic aperture radar in the very high frequency band and is another input into the network. This sensor has the capability to discover objects under foliage and camouflage, and it even has a ground-penetration capability. The potential is good for CARABAS’ use on unmanned aerial vehicles, he contends.

The company is also participating in the development of Tara, a jamming-resistant voice and data radio communications system. But it is the sensors like the airborne radars and ground-based radars such as the Ericsson Giraffe, Arthur and the new RBS23 Bamse that are built specifically to be tied within a network of networks. “Everyone necessary has access to this sensor information. Bamse, currently in development by Ericsson Microwave Systems, contains both search and fire control radars,” Gen. Bergh shares.

The Giraffe family of command, control, communications and intelligence radars is for tactical air defense and naval air and surface surveillance. The system is in operation in 20 countries. A three-dimensional Giraffe AMB agile multibeam radar is an air-defense and gapfiller system for use with medium-range surface-to-air missile systems. The Giraffe AMB can maintain a high target-update rate by simultaneously covering the full elevation range using multiple antenna beams in elevation. The maintained pulse density also ensures high clutter suppression under adverse weather conditions. Sidelobes are virtually eliminated, increasing the radar’s jamming resistance.

Arthur, designed for locating artillery, mortar and rocket launch sites, is partially based on Giraffe technology. This small radar can locate 100 targets per minute. A number of targets can be acquired and tracked simultaneously while the search continues. After tracking, the trajectory is calculated, and the position of hostile artillery or mortar fire is determined and transmitted through a datalink to a fire direction center.

In linking various systems and sensors to the network, the only limiting factor is the human imagination, the general clarifies. He says that at the tactical level—in that last kilometer—Ericsson is very efficient. “But this is platform-centric thinking. No one has the capability to provide a system of systems at the operational level, which involves a revolutionary change in the use of platforms. A system is not worth any more than what it adds to the network, and we must think in this new dimension.”

The general makes it clear that he believes the pieces are in place at Ericsson for a network-of-networks capability and that the company is diligently working to allow commanders at various levels to observe, orient, decide and act faster than an enemy can react.