KARLSKRONA, Sweden — It’s been 18 years since Swedish industry delivered a new submarine. The shipyard in Malmö that delivered Gotland-class submarines is closed. But the cloud that hung over the Kockums shipbuilders who designed and built those subs has been lifted — gone with last year’s transfer from tension-filled ownership by Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems to Saab, the Swedish firm known for fast planes and solid cars.
“We have not taken over something just to be friends with our country,” Gunilla Fransson, Saab’s senior vice president of its naval business, told reporters here April 30 on a company-sponsored press tour. “We think it is a very stable business and it can become something very successful.”
Since finalizing the shipyard acquisition in July, Saab’s leadership has displayed relentless optimism about returning Kockums to the forefront of naval technology, particularly in submarine design and construction. Corporate leaders acknowledge there is much work to be done, including upgrades to the Karlskrona shipyard, but they point out that Kockums engineering talent remains in place.
“Apart from we want to be the most modern shipyard in the world, we want to have all these traditions, too,” Fransson said at a press briefing symbolically held inside a shipyard mast crane from the early 1800s. “We still have the people on board — people have not left Kockums. We have the knowledge and the competence intact.” The naval business now is one of six businesses within Saab. Aviation-related products make up 45 percent of the company’s portfolio, land systems 22 percent, with naval coming in third at 14 percent. But Saab is working to create a new naval identity.
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