Saab Sees Potential in Australian Naval ExpansionSaab Group subsidiary Saab Australia has expanded its attempts in 2015 to dominate the regional combat management systems market, as it seeks to capitalise on the upcoming wave of platform acquisitions by the Royal Australian Navy. The company is also attempting to market its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) products to Australia, both as an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability and as Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training aids. These can be added to the list of Royal Australian Navy contracts already acquired by Saab. This includes upgrades to the Platform Management System (PMS) on the "Collins" class submarine, which is to be delivered in late 2015 or early 2016; and the provision and installation of combat systems for Australia’s two new LHDs, for which trials are currently being conducted on the second vessel of the class for acceptance in October or November 2015.
The company’s plans for these future tenders are at very different stages, as the maturity of the projects is not consistent. Saab’s submission for SEA5000 is relatively settled, with the company planning to offer and integrate a version of its existing 9LV CMS, already in use in the ANZAC frigates and "Canberra" class LHDs. The 9LV would be coupled with a radar system developed by local company CEA Technologies, as occurred under the recent SEA1448 Phase 2B (Anti-Ship Missile Defence) upgrade to the ANZACs. The situation is more complicated with SEA1180, due to the project’s immaturity. Whilst Saab is still to determine which combat system it will tender, its offering will have to accommodate the Royal Australian Navy's decision not to place dedicated Combat Systems and Electric Warfare (EW) Operators on its previous patrol boats. SEA1654 Ph.3 is at a slightly more advanced stage, with the company providing responses on the topic to shortlisted shipbuilders NAVANTIA and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME).
According to Saab, there is also potential in the future for international cooperation with Saab Australia’s parent company in Sweden. The current mid-life upgrades of the Swedish Navy’s "Gotland" class submarines will potentially contribute knowledge and expertise towards any future life extension of the Royal Australian Navy’s own "Collins" class, as the two designs are related.
Unmanned systems are another area in which Saab sees major potential in the Australian naval market. The Navy has found itself falling behind similar sized navies in the integration of UAVs and USV into its surface and submarine fleets, something which it is keen to rectify. Accordingly, Saab has attempted to enter the Australian market as both a systems integrator and equipment provider. The main products in this space which are being promoted by the company are the SKELDAR UAV, which it claims has already attracted official interest in Australia, and the BONEFISH USV trimaran. Training is another area which the company is attempting to offer solutions, with its AUV-62 autonomous underwater target likely to be officially proposed to Australia in 2016. The AUV-62 is claimed to provide large cost savings in ASW training, with the drone emulating the signatures of a full-sized submarine.
By Mitchell Sutton