“This is why radar is so good,” says Fredrik Wising, director of research and development at Saab's Surveillance business area, pointing towards the grey skies towering outside the windows on the top floor of Saab's building in Kallebäck Technology Park.
“On a clear day, you can see the sea from here,” says colleague Ann Kullberg, head of communications at Surveillance.
Surveillance is one of six Saab business areas and has more than 4000 employees, with 1300 working in Gothenburg, 1300 in Stockholm, some in Luleå and the rest abroad. Solutions are provided in security, surveillance and decision support for detecting and protecting against various types of threats. Two of Surveillance’s business units are in Gothenburg: Airborne Surveillance Systems, with the airborne surveillance system GlobalEye as the main product; and Surface Radar Solutions, with the Giraffe radar family among its products.
That Saab's Gothenburg facility was built on one of the city’s highest hills is no coincidence.
“We’re up here so that we can take measurements and verify our radar products from the roof,” says Fredrik Wising. “We can test over land, the sea and in the air. We can also test nose radar towards Landvetter Airport, where there are always plenty of aircraft coming in for landings.”
It began back in 1956
The step is far from Sweden's first radar built during World War II – with its large antenna and a slowly rotating, large tube transmitter – to today's antenna systems with a multitude of interacting antenna element, electronics and software. And it is all closely associated with Gothenburg, home to one of the world's leading clusters in antenna and microwave technology. It began back in 1956 when Ericsson established development operations for radar technology here at what was then called Ericsson Microwave Systems.
“This was in part because of the skilled engineers at the Chalmers Institute of Technology, along with the institute’s academic programme for electrical engineers,” says Fredrik Wising. “But there were also researchers here studying microwave radiation, outer space and associated fields. In combination with the desire to locate in the western part of the country, this made Gothenburg the logical choice.”
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in the 1990s, the basis of Sweden's defence and security policy went from invasion defence as the principle objective at the beginning of the 2000s, to participation in international missions. This entailed strongly decreased priority for development projects and reduced funding for research and technological development. Ericsson Microwave Systems, which had many development contracts financed by the state over the years, was forced to manage on its own.
“Appropriations from the Swedish government diminished after the fall of the Berlin Wall,” says Fredrik Wising. “Research continued for a number of years into the new century before we were left to ourselves, you could say, when we were forced to find out what the customers needed.”