Saab is focusing on developing the next generation of its RBS15 anti-ship missile for its domestic customer’s GRIPEN fighter and VISBY class corvette, claiming that further platform integration would only happen as and when a new customer required it.
Speaking to MONS at a media event on 11 May, Michael Hoglund, Head of Marketing and Sales for Missile Systems at Saab, said that contracts from the Swedish FMV procurement agency in March and April that cover development and delivery of a new fourth generation of the missile is the primary focus of the company at present.
“The driving force for the timing of this is the GRIPEN E,” Hoglund said, noting that the development schedule of the new fighter means that the weapon needed to begin development now in order for it to be ready in time for the aircraft’s introduction.
The VISBY corvettes already carry the second generation version of the weapon, as does the C/D variant of the GRIPEN.
The second generation variant of RBS15 is also operated on Thailand’s GRIPEN C/D fighter, but the third generation was only acquired for surface-based operations by the Navies of Poland, Germany, and an undisclosed nation, believed by news sources to be Algeria. Sweden will therefore go from the second class version of the weapon to the fourth under the terms of the new deal.
The recent contracts cover a ten year period, at which point all of the undisclosed number of missiles will be fully delivered to Sweden and operational on both platforms.
Saab could not disclose any details on what the missile performance will actually be, other than to say it will fit the same form factor as the previous generations. The weapon delivered for the two platforms will have 95% commonality, the main difference being a booster for the surface-based variant.
Hoglund claimed that while the details are undisclosed, discussions with the customer have been underway for sometime, so the company has a, “very specific requirement,” to deliver against.
“A lot of the operational requirements the customers wants to achieve with this have been studied for many years,” he said. “We know exactly what it is supposed to do - it is well specified.”
A competing system to RBS15 is Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile, which has been developed for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Hoglund said that while technically the RBS15 could be integrated onto the F-35, customer requirements would have to drive the integration. “The challenge for any missile provider is the cost to integrate it onto different aircraft,” he said. “If we went on the F-35 that would be interesting, but it would involve integration costs.”
Future potential operators of GRIPEN E could benefit from the weapons package being acquired for Sweden, which includes a number of munitions that the company is involved in, namely TAURUS, Diehl Defence IRIS-T, MBDA METEOR, and the RBS15. The development and integration costs would already be covered, and operators could gain from the benefits of a ready-certified weapons package.
Saab is also seeing interest in the RBS15 family for coastal batteries, with neighbouring Finland one such country that has interest in this. It is also acquiring a new fighter, and if it selects GRIPEN E, the fourth generation RBS15 could be an option, so it could benefit from cost savings on buying larger stores of the weapon for the two applications.
Additionally, if customers were to opt for the third generation RBS15 now, they can change their order to upgrade to the new generation variant when it is developed.
Hoglund said that the two missiles will be offered in parallel for sometime once the fourth generation variant is developed, while some features of the new version will be rolled into the third generation version.