Whether training an individual soldier in bomb detection, reproducing urban warfare scenarios or simulating major battle situations with tanks and armoured vehicles, Saab’s Training and Simulation unit in the United Kingdom has the knowledge and technology to do the job. This unit built its reputation with tank training simulation programmes for the British Army, winning its first major contract in 1993.
These training programmes continue today, and the UK Ministry of Defence has renewed the contract for an additional three years to the value of SEK 220 million ($34 million). This includes the Direct Fire Weapon Effects Simulator (DFWES) system, a precision-laser-based tactical engagement system for vehicles, armour and anti-tank weapons in force-on-force exercises. Joe Sinclair, Capability Manager for the DFWES project, says that the scale of these exercises requires Saab teams to be flexible and agile. “We deliver well beyond customer expectations,” he notes.
The British Armed Forces are undergoing a major reorganisation. For Saab, this creates opportunities for business growth. Mark Franklin, Managing Director, Training and Simulation UK, says, We are aiming for an ambitious 20 per cent growth per year. We can achieve this by taking a flexible and proactive approach to developing new, relevant and cost-effective training. The UK is a credible reference customer, and it has set the benchmark for our services – an important selling point for other customers.” Saab highlights its service and availability as a competitive advantage. “We aim to provide all-encompassing solutions, from widgets to service, available 365 days a year,” says Franklin.
One example is the company’s development of specific training programmes for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in response to the British Army’s increased exposure to such threats in 2010. Franklin says, “Building on known technology and focused on metal detection and electronic countermeasures, the Saab team took it from a concept to capability in only 52 days.” Saab staff worked with an IED specialist in the Royal Engineers to ensure that the training programme met operational requirements and was directly relevant to the challenges soldiers faced on the ground.
The speed of the development work, coupled with the relevance of the training, led to a contract worth £20 million within six months. Saab has carried out training programmes in the UK, Jordan and Afghanistan under this contract. “At its peak we had 40 people working on the project, with a permanent team in Afghanistan,” says Franklin. “So far we have trained more than 150,000 troops.”
Rusty Orwin, Capability Exploitation Programme Manager, is tasked with shaping the product portfolio according to customer needs. He is currently assessing what types of simulation mixes – live, virtual, constructive – will be needed in future.“It is all about using the enormous database of information we have gathered to guide future training programmes and the technology and services that support them,” he says.“It will be important to innovate and offer more complex solutions to different customers".
The technology platform should be able to draw in and exploit a range of assets. We want to make training more affordable and beneficial.” Franklin also has high hopes for a range of bespoke and modular programmes that will be available at a dedicated training academy in the UK.
Planned for launch at the end of 2014, these programmes will cover areas such as pre-deployment, first aid and hostile environments, and they will be targeted at Saab employees, the rest of the defence sector, and oil and gas workers who face challenging environments. Saab has gained accreditation as a learning facility and is working with City and Guilds and Liverpool University for some of its training modules.
Fathers and sons: Military veteran Kevin Little, who works as the local site manager for Saab at the Salisbury Plain training ground, is very proud of his dedicated and efficient staff. And if the team seems to work like a big family, there’s good reason: Kevin Little is the father of Marc, and technician Paul Ashman is the father of Jonathan.
Clockwise from top left: Jackie Beech, Marc Little, Jonathan Ashman, Kevin Little, Paul Ashman
Fathers and sons
Military veteran Kevin Little, who works as the local site manager for Saab at the Salisbury Plain training ground, is very proud of his dedicated and efficient staff. And if the team seems to work like a big family, there’s good reason: Kevin Little is the father of Marc, and technician Paul Ashman is the father of Jonathan.