A New Frontier

Today, we had a great visit to Saab Technologies' headquartered in Gothenburg. During our visit, we were giving a tour of the production facility of their new radar for the GlobalEye Surveillance System. The GlobalEye Surveillance System is a radar system that is mounted onto a jet where it can help detect incoming objects from up to 400 km away. This system is significant for military usage because current radar system can only detect up to 300 km away and is harder to detect low altitude projectiles because of the angle of the detection field. The ground radar system would be unable to detect these projectiles which would give less warning time.

In the past, Saab has had all of its manufacturing production done in-house but due to industry changes, they have begun to outsource some components to third party suppliers but still maintain a portion of the sensor manufacturing, the assembly, and testing in-house. The production time for the GlobalEye Surveillance System can be up to 18 months which does not include the testing and modifying the system to specific customer specification. Some component inventories cannot be kept in high volumes due to their extremely high cost. It would strain Saab’s cash flow and could result in the need to pass those cost onto the customer. Some examples are the wiring of the circuit board to the radar that can take up to 3 weeks and certain high cost sensors. In addition, all electronics components go through different phases of testing to ensure the accuracy which increases production time even further.

For the testing phase, there are two rooms which allow Saab to test the GlobalEye Surveillance System. One room allows testing of the system in usage under different weather condition to ensure the GlobalEye Surveillance System operates correctly during extreme weathers.  Since Saab's system focuses on compatibility usage among air, sea, and land, the testing phase requires the system to be able to endure all three conditions. In addition, Saab also tests the durability and strengths of the system to ensure all components would be able to withstand harsh conditions. During testing phase, any components that are found to have issues or are defects, they are quickly replaced. It typically takes the Saab team about 1 hour to fix most electronic issues because of built in sensors. This extensive amount of testing is required because any risk of equipment failure in the field could lead to a death of an individual the system is meant to protect.

Since Saab is a defense contractor, there are heavy restrictions on how and who the company can sell their GlobalEye Surveillance System to. Prior to making any agreement to see the system, Saab is required to seek sales approval from the Swedish government. The reason is to ensure that Saab only sells to countries that are friendly. The new system is currently being used by Sweden, Pakistan, India, and a few other nations. Overall, the production of the Saab’s new radar system is very slow as expected for a product that has a large price tag. Unfortunately, we have not had an opportunity to visit any defense contractors in the United States so we are not able to compare their production time but we can assume that it would take just as long or even longer to manufacture a surveillance system at that caliber.