In Sweden, the arms industry is gaining strength

Inside the small building with yellow wooden facades, located on the outskirts of Karlskoga (Sweden), 250 kilometers west of Stockholm, far from the din of war, calm reigns. In the workshop, workers methodically assemble the Carl Gustav anti-tank guns, which arrive here in pieces. Calibrated, then tested in the nearby shooting center, they are then cleaned and packaged in khaki covers, before being prepared for delivery. Part of it will end in Ukraine, where the anti-tank systems of the Swedish manufacturer Saab – the Carl Gustav but also the AT4 rocket launcher and the NLAW missile – have acquired a certain notoriety on the battlefield.

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Director of Saab Dynamics, the group’s subsidiary focused on the land segment, Görgen Johansson never tires of recounting the day his boss called him, at the start of 2022: “He had just seen that the UK had sent 3,500 NLAW to Ukraine. » Three weeks later, on February 24, Russia launched its offensive. Very quickly, Ukrainian soldiers posted videos on social networks showing them shooting down enemy tanks. They praise the famous NLAW, accompanied by a meme sanctifying it.

Saab shares are soaring on the stock market. It has more than tripled since February 2022. Orders are exploding. Without delay, the Swedish manufacturer is investing 150 million euros in its production capacities. Unheard of since the group began manufacturing the Carl Gustav in 1948, assures Michael Höglund, head of the land combat division. Several factories will be built in Sweden and abroad, notably in India. Objective: quadruple deliveries of anti-tank weapons and ammunition by 2025, from 100,000 to 400,000 units per year.

A fantastic “showcase”

Görgen Johansson readily admits: the war in Ukraine was a formidable “showcase” for Saab, whose catalog ranges from Gripen fighter jets to the GlobalEye aerial surveillance system, including radars, camouflage and submarines. In 2023, the group’s orders, already increasing in 2022, increased by 23%, as did its turnover, which reached 51.6 billion Swedish crowns (4.5 billion euros), while its Profit grew by 51%, ending at 3.4 billion crowns.

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Over the past year, the manufacturer, which employs more than 21,000 people worldwide, including 16,000 in Sweden, has increased its workforce by nearly 2,500 people, and it continues to recruit. He is not the only one. The entire Swedish arms industry is in turmoil – a sector which brings together around 200 companies, around sixty of which are owned by foreign capital. In 2022, these companies, which had a turnover of 48.5 billion crowns, employed more than 28,000 employees. “We do not yet have the result for 2023, but it should be much higher”says the director of the Swedish Security and Defense Industry Association (SOFF), Robert Limmergard.

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