Saab is one of the most important international companies providing different countries around the world with products, services, and innovative solutions in the defence, security, and space sectors. To better understand Saab’s fields of work, products, and investments, as well as its latest projects in the UAE, Al Jundi Journal interviewed Anna-Karin Rosen, Managing Director of Saab in the UAE, and had the following dialogue:
What are Saab’s fields of work and its most prominent products in the UAE?
Saab is a leading defence and security company with an enduring mission, to help nations keep their people and society safe.
Empowered by its 18,000 talented people, in 35 countries, Saab constantly pushes the boundaries of technology to create a safer and more sustainable world. Saab has a long history with the UAE, with our operations dating back to the 1980s. We have grown a lot since then, which led to our operations taking full bloom in 2018 when we created Saab Ltd., a wholly Saab-owned company, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
These few years have shaped our role in the UAE in many ways wherein we established a development and production centre in Abu Dhabi’s Tawazun Industrial Park (TIP) shortly after the creation of our business in 2018. We agreed on a business plan with Tawazun Economic Council in 2019, as a first step towards the continuous development of Saab’s Abu Dhabi operations.
Who is Anna-Karin Rosen, Managing Director of Saab UAE?
Before starting my Saab career in 1999, I worked briefly as a civilian in the Swedish Air Force and spent four years in Washington DC as a diplomat.
I then worked for 12 years in Saab’s Aeronautics development and engineering departments, specializing in system safety and reliability for fighter aircraft.
In 2011, I moved with my family to Bangkok where I held the position of country manager Thailand for Saab’s Aeronautics business. This was followed in 2014 by another position as head of marketing and sales for the Gripen fighter aircraft in the Middle East and Africa, based in Pretoria, South Africa.
In 2017, I moved with my family to Abu Dhabi for the position of Offset Program Director UAE, and in 2018, I was appointed Managing Director of Saab in UAE.
How important are the UAE and GCC markets to Saab?
Saab has seen substantial international growth in recent years with an increased presence in key countries, UAE being one of these key countries. The UAE has a lot to offer when it comes to its defence capabilities and this has been shown through the various international partnerships it is undertaken in recent months.
As a local, homegrown company, we believe that partnerships are key to success and essential to building both a strong foundation and a defence and security ecosystem in the UAE.
How do you assess the cooperation between Saab and the United Arab Emirates?
We always advocate for greater collaboration between government, industry, and academia as per the Triple Helix Model. This helps in driving ideas and generating innovative products for dual military and civilian use, as well as supporting job creation, commercializing R&D, and improving the UAE’s competitiveness in the sector. The Triple Helix approach was featured prominently in all areas of Saab’s developments. All complex projects require the involvement of different partners and competencies, input from academia and government in the form of research, funding, and strategic direction. We are well placed to understand the local customers’ requirements and provide high-tech customized solutions to meet these demands. With a growing team of around 150 employees, both foreign and local, we are in the right place to further establish our presence in the UAE and support it in becoming a leader in the field.
What is Saab’s investment in the UAE and who do you primarily work with?
We have formed strong and long-lasting relationships with a variety of key industrial players, governmental decision-makers, and academic researchers.
We have made significant contributions to the local industry and pride ourselves on playing a central role in the UAE’s growth in the sector, whether by reinvesting a large share of our sales in research and development, continuing close dialogue with customers, partners, and universities, or exploring new technology solutions with local players, including the Tawazun Economic Council with whom we work developing Saab’s Abu Dhabi operations. Saab also has a joint venture with Gulf Air Space Co LLC (GACO), where Saab Middle East LLC owns 49 % and GACO owns 51 %.
What new products is Saab offering the UAE and Gulf region?
Products and systems that Saab has delivered to the UAE and the region include systems for naval command and control, naval radar, underwater vehicles, self-protection, signature management, airborne surveillance, field hospitals, training, security, management and communication, and traffic management.
The latest development includes Saab’s Integrated Air Traffic Control Suite to be implemented at Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport. The contract, awarded to Saab by Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects includes approximately 95 controller positions which will be distributed between the two airports, the Emirates Flight Training Academy, and the Contingency Operations Center.
One of Saab’s flagship products is GlobalEye, the world’s most advanced airborne early warning and control solution. The GlobalEye program with the UAE is running according to plan and Saab recently received a follow-on contract in 2021 regarding the sale of two more GlobalEye systems. We also signed an agreement with Tawazun earlier this year in the area of secure communications. This follows multiple agreements for other sectors concluded in the previous months between Saab and Tawazun.
The agreement involved the local development of a state-of-the-art, ruggedized, 5G communication system for military and crisis operations, offering fast, reliable and secure voice and data communication to deliver a complete end-to-end solution optimally suited to customer needs.
What are Saab’s future plans?
While Sweden remains at the core of Saab’s strategic foundation, the company’s future success is tied to its ability to expand and grow internationally. Aided by strong partnerships and a high-tech offering within core technology areas, Saab is committed to becoming a global multi-domestic company and strengthening its position in strategic markets. This will enable further growth on the company’s journey.
Aided by partnerships with domestic suppliers, Saab has an established local operational presence as well as an installed base in countries where future business opportunities have been identified.
Key drivers for growth will be increased order intake and domestic sales, R&D, investments, and export with support from partnerships, as well as industrial and university collaborations to build a platform for future growth. The UAE is of course one of these strategic countries for growth.In the UAE Saab has grown immensely since 2018, from both a talent and technical perspective. We are growing an important portfolio of locally developed products right from our development centre in Abu Dhabi.
What are your biggest accomplishments in the defence sector?
2021 and 2022 have been eventful and Saab in UAE is proud to have made several accomplishments thanks to our multitude of local partners. Our relationship with the UAE is built on trust which is reflected by receiving a follow-up contract in 2021 regarding the sale of two more GlobalEye systems. We recently launched a state-of-the art, ruggedized, 5G communication system for military and crisis operations at the Umex SimTEX 2022 exhibition in Abu Dhabi, the DeployNet. Locally developed in the UAE, Deploynet will be a precious asset to both military and civilian markets where there is a requirement for a ruggedized, quickly deployable 5G/LTE network, not just here in the UAE but for export globally, particularly in regions without an existing fixed communications network.
What are Saab’s short-term goals and where do you see Saab in the long term?
To grow and stay competitive in a global market, Saab continues to focus on investments in new technologies. Rapid advancements in technology are pushing the boundaries of innovation and efficiency, but also enabling transitions to sustainable solutions. Together with our international partners, Saab is focusing its future investments on Artificial Intelligence, Autonomy, Cyber, and Cloud-technology, and Saab will continuously invest in these fields to secure excellence in competence and future capabilities. We continued to execute our global multi-domestic strategy and strengthened our position in important markets. As we are growing our local footprint in strategic markets, we are continuously supporting key national capabilities and technologies. Our commitment to our customers and society can only be realized if we maintain our capability edge and stay at the forefront of technology, whilst being more sustainable. Our employees are instrumental in this journey, and Saab is continuously looking to attract new talent and invest in them to maintain this edge.
Space, innovation, and cyber security are of great interest to the UAE leadership. What is Saab doing to enable the UAE to achieve progress in these three domains?
The UAE’s space industry is rapidly evolving as it explores the latest technology solutions and enters conversations to involve the private sector in its ambition to grow. We recognized this achievement and as such had the privilege in October of 2021 to host the European Space Agency astronaut and Saab space advisor Christer Fuglesang, who has been on two space shuttle missions and five spacewalks, with the Swedish Pavilion at Expo 2020 for Space Week.
As part of our space offer, Saab has been developing high-end technology that contributes to improving its users’ understanding of the Earth. With extensive experience in developing and implementing complex command and control systems, Saab has broadened its offer with a solution connecting several of the company’s existing products and sensor information with satellite data.
We strive to call for greater collaboration between government, industry, and academia. This will help drive ideas and generate innovative products for dual military and civilian use, as well as support job creation, commercialize R&D, and improve the UAE’s competitiveness in the sector.
Would you like to send any message through Al Jundi Journal to the defense community in general, or the UAE in particular?
The UAE has immense potential and its local talent is growing across the industry with a particular focus placed on attracting more Emirati talent in the defence and security sector.
There are numerous training programs that Saab has invested in that cater to upskilling Emirati talent across the UAE and equip them with the right tools to become experts in the field. We are an early investor in the UAE and are committed to future investments for the long-term prosperity of the country.
Managing Director of Saab in UAE.
Anna moved to Abu Dhabi in October 2017 for the position of Offset Program Director UAE.
Before starting her Saab career in 1999, Anna worked briefly as a civilian in the Swedish Air Force and spent four years in Washington DC as a diplomat. She then worked for 12 years in the Aeronautics’ development and engineering departments, specializing in System Safety & Reliability for fighter aircraft.
In 2011, Anna moved with her family to Bangkok where she held the position of Country Manager Thailand for Saab Aeronautics. This was followed in 2014 with a Marketing & Sales position as Head of Gripen for the Middle East & Africa Market Area, based in Pretoria, South Africa.
Anna has Mechanical Engineering (MSc), Business Administration (BSc), and HTO (BSc; Human, Technology, Organisation).
» Interviewed by: «AL JUNDI»