David Oliver talks to Nils-Erik Lindblom, former major in the Swedish armed forces and currently Senior Director of Sales CBRN, Land Systems at leading Swedish defence company Saab.
Saab serves the market with world-leading products, services and solutions from military defence to civil security. With operations on every continent, it develops new technology to meet customers’ changing needs.
CBNW: Could you give a short history of how and why Saab became involved in the CBRN market sector?
N-E L: Saab’s CBRN history goes back all the way to 1978, when we conducted our first demo project for CBRN sensors in a network environment for the Swedish armed forces.
During the first years of the new millennium, the needs for new CBRN equipment for the Swedish defence forces increased and Saab won the contract to supply technical support and services. In subsequent years, Saab cooperated with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) and together we developed several CBRN products and system solutions for the Swedish Army.
From 2008, we increased our efforts in the international market and added products for sampling and a certified transport solution for samples. We also introduced our new Automatic Warning and Reporting (AWR) system. This was a new feature on the market, where we combined Detection Identification and Monitoring (DIM) with Warning and Reporting (WR) into one single system, AWR.
Today, we have an installed base covering 20 countries. We have a long history in the CBRN sector, and sensor integration is something of a core business for Saab and in other areas of our business as well – not only CBRN.
CBNW: How many staff do you employ and how many are involved in research and development?
N-E L: Saab has around 17,000 employees worldwide and 9,400 working in R&D.
CBNW: What is your portfolio of CBRN solutions that Saab offers to the market sector?
N-E L: We work according to NATO standard ATP-3.8.1 as a base. We offer sampling solutions to civil and military customers, including a wide selection of sampling kits for different needs and situations, standard configuration or tailor-made as well as a complete sampling solution. They fulfil the requirements for forensic sampling of CBRN agents from air, water, soil, powder, objects and vegetation.
Our CBRN transport packaging is a certified single container solution for any need which is cost-effective and always prepared. It is certified for transport by sea, air, road or rail of a wide array of toxic, biological, pathogenic, radioactive, chemical and explosive samples.
Our CBRN AWR Sensor networks are for monitoring and tactical use both for stationary and mobile use. The Saab CBRN reconnaissance vehicle kits (CRVK) for 4×4 to 8×8 vehicles fully support monitoring, sampling, reconnaissance and field analysis. Saab’s CBRN naval solutions include overpressure solutions and CBRN filter solutions for naval vessels and automatic and warning sensor networks.
CBNW: What are the key advantages of your Automatic Warning and Reporting system?
N-E L: The AWR system integrates Detection, Identification, Monitoring (DIM) together with Warning and Reporting (WR) into one single system and provides a consolidated and comprehensive threat picture to the operational forces.
DIM and WR combined will save time and resources and gain a head start with the information flow when you need it the most. It negates the need for specialist CBRN personnel to be employed widely throughout the operational forces, reducing the cost of training and personnel management.
Real experts are a vital asset. They can be kept safely in a strategic position, connected to and controlling the CBRN Information System. The system can use virtually any type of sensor – meteorological, chemical, biological, radiological, positioning or video – from any manufacturer. It reduces false detection due to sensor fusion, cost-effective re-use of heritage sensors and combination of sensor information.
The AWR system is based on a modular and open architecture that allows users to change sensor configuration over time in response to changing threats. It is therefore both cost effective and ready for future threats. All units, from fixed and mobile to the soldier system, are fully integrated into the system and it is possible to tailor it according to changing needs and adapt it to the organisation’s tasks.
The AWR system also supports international standards such as ADatP-3, TP45 and JC3IEDM to make it possible to exchange warnings and reports with other forces. This provides the opportunity to combine multiple information sources and shorten the reaction time during a hazardous event.
The system uses a sensor network with distributed data, which enables early warnings with the purpose to support the decision process and shorten time to action.
CBNW: What can you offer to the market that your competitors do not?
N-E L: I think what we offer is strong and adapted to the real needs of our customers. Decades of cooperation with the Swedish armed forces has made us very much aware of the state of things, and we have successfully applied this knowledge with other armed forces as well.
Our CBRNe transport packaging, for example, which enables various CBRNe agents to be transported in one single package, is the only one of its kind certified in the world.
Within Saab we have many years of extensive experience with sensor integration and sensor networks. Not only with CBRN sensors, but also our whole portfolio of products and systems – including ground-based radar, airborne surveillance and fighter aircraft. If the sensor has an interface, we can integrate it.
CBNW: What percentage of your business is in the military sector?
N-E L: In 2019, 85% of Saab’s business came from the military sector.
CBNW: Can you explain what training you offer to customers?
N-E L: We offer training for sampling as well as CBRN method training. We also offer system training for both hardware and software related to our AWR system. In addition, we offer a synthetic training package with an advanced CBRN dispersion engine for realistic simulations.
The training can be performed as an independent product using mobile phones or can be integrated into the sensor network. This set-up allows the customer to train in an environment where all substances are simulated: a very safe solution with no need for stimuli agents or real agents. The synthetic training may be set up and performed as required – from individual needs within a group up to full joint training involving agencies and military forces.
CBNW: To what extent has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your company?
N-E L: Many societies and companies have been affected by Covid-19 and Saab is no exception. As Saab has long-term contracts, we keep our products in stock maintained to a larger extent than just-in-time businesses.
However, we see a continuing effect of the pandemic. Disruption in supplychains and in parts of our businesses mean we have difficulties visiting suppliers and customers. We have taken mitigating actions in order to continue executing and securing deliveries, and to enable us to plan for the future.
CBNW: Where do you see the greatest potential?
N-E L: We see a great potential within ongoing digitalisation. Sensors, sensor networks, and connecting systems to achieve full digital integration will be the future for CBRN.
Saab will have a system integration role. Together with the best sensor manufacturers in the world we will be able to create fast and accurate systems that will speed up our customers´ information and their decision processes to create a safer world.
Image: The customised CBRNe/TIM sampling kit is packed in a man-portable case.