The return last summer of the Kockums shipbuilding firm to Swedish ownership and control marked a rare moment when the public, government and industry all joined in approval.
“I think this is one of the first times we have seen a very positive reception from everyone in the country,” said Gunilla Fransson, head of the Saab Kockums Security and Defense Solutions unit. “Now we have a way forward.”
Fransson spoke to reporters Wednesday here at the Euronaval exposition just outside Paris, where Saab and its new Kockums acquisition are re-establishing their identity as submarine builders with a distinctly Swedish bent.
“We have created Saab Kockums,” Fransson said. “The strength of Saab as well as the shipyard capabilities of Kockums. We already have a strong underwater unit, and together we form the naval part of Saab.”
Fransson ticked off various Saab efforts in developing naval systems, but said, “Saab has not been famous for doing ships. Using the name Kockums is showing that this is a Saab company doing ships.”
She likened the monicker to other Saab activities, including Saab Gripen, specializing in aircraft development and construction, and Saab Barracuda, a US-based operation working on security and defense systems.
Saab Kockums, Fransson declared, is eager to compete for naval business worldwide, ranging from ships to systems.
“We believe that the world naval business is an industry cooperation business,” she said. “We should never say we can only supply a complete system. That’s one thing, but in the rest of the market there will be other opportunities.”
Saab views itself as a major systems integrator, Fransson said. “Our strength is sometimes to be a naval integrator. … We want to be a prime systems integrator, including using our competitors’ products.”
The relationship between Kockums and its German ownership was always rocky after Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werftacquired the previously state-owned Swedish shipbuilding firm in 1999. Absorbed into the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) conglomerate in 2005, relations only got worse, and suspicions were rife that the acquisition’s primary purpose was to drive Kockums out of the submarine design and building business.