At ITEC conference on 9 April 2024, Army Technology interviewed Hans Lingdren, head of business development at Saab about the role of simulation in military modernisation and the growing flavour for expeditionary training simulations in the Indo-Pacific market. 

Lindgren spent 16 years in the Swedish Army serving as Company commander and on the Brigade Staff, and joined Saab in 2002 as a member of the military operational team, advising on the use of simulation in training. As Saab’s business development lead, he now focuses on the company’s long term influence, requirements, needs, and decision making. 

The simulation sector and Saab’s new directions

Andrew Salerno Garthwaite (ASG): What’s been the latest development that Saab have introduced into its simulation based training, based on feedback from your customers?

Hans Lingdren (HL): It is new weapon technology to be blended in to our traditional solution: where you see weapons beyond line-of-sight, for instance; where we have loitering ammunition to be simulated for live training; you have antitank guided missiles like the French MMP or the Spikes long range munition which can launch, and then lock-on-after-launch onto the target. So that kind of technology is what’s new into our family.

When you’re talking beyond line of sight, we cannot use optics anymore. We need to have a combination of GPS and radio technology, and still have the man in the loop guiding the missile based on the information we can provide into the cameras view of the site.

ASG: What’s next in the pipeline of research and design goals for Saab’s simulation training?

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HL: Looking into the ongoing conflict in Russia and Ukraine today, and looking into what’s happening in the Gaza region, we are adapting our solution to meet those threats or needs that our customers identify. So of course, we read the doctrines and analysis from the battlefield, and are implementing electronic warfare, for instance, and nowadays implementing very low level air defence assets, and drones for units on the low level. That is what we are adding to the system in the future.

ASG: What’s the outlook for the simulation sector?

HL: In general, we see a growing market, and that is driven by Russia’s behaviour in Europe, and the fact that the US is now looking into how they should handle the threat in the South China Sea, and the need to have better trained soldiers and armed forces to outmanoeuvre your opponent by skill.

Customer requirements for expeditionary training

ASG: Do you see a lot of investment in simulation and training for the South Pacific?

HL: Yeah, there is a high demand from that region in general, we see more and more RFI’s and request for tenders coming out, and they are more or less buying the same as Europe have done for many years, and the US as well.

ASG: And is the focus of that on the littoral domain?

HL: It’s a mix. It’s island jumping, more or less, but it’s still a Land component conducting the control of the area.

ASG: Is it fair to assume Australia’s recent change of doctrine, focusing on its Northern coast, has brought on new demands for training and simulation?

HL: We do see interest from them as well, but there has not been any contract launched yet. But we do see a change in the doctrine, as you have identified, to be more expeditionary in their solution. So they can bring it elsewhere and not just train in Australia, to export their training to allied partners I’m trying to gather with the US for instance.

ASG: And that’s a trend that you see more broadly?

HL: Yes, in the region of Asia-Pacific. Expeditionary, to bring training to the point of need, is a leading word, together with interoperability. 

Simulation as a statement, and covert training

ASG: Do you see the same expeditionary drive in other regions, such as Europe?

HL: Europe as well. When we started with combat training centre we saw a lot of requirements to have simulation in the country at one location. Today there is a distributed philosophy, where you start training with instrumentation from platoon level but then you bring it at, or to, the border of Russia. 

When you when you look at Nato and our forward presence – where you have UK, France, Germany, Canada, and US forces – what they conduct in this Nato enhanced forward presence is training in front of the face of the Russian forces, and that is to generate a threshold or send a signal. So it’s training for deterrence. 

ASG: In the same way that nations publicise the exercises they take part in, as a demonstration to other nations of their preparation and capabilities, do nations exhibit a carefulness about the message they communicate when they engaging in simulation training?

HL: I think it’s a balance. What is the message we intend to transmit, and what would we hide? Are there gaps in their capability? For sure, they do not want to present that. But, there must be an intention, and it’s up to each country, it’s up to Nato, what the message is they want to send. I think it’s a well considered message within the simulation community as well.

ASG: Do you think in that manner that training through simulation allows countries to provide training to fill capability gaps, without necessarily broadcasting that pursuit?

HL: I think so. To analyse a gap, to design the next training phase, to meet or to take care of the gaps they identify.

Each country is pretty open with, “We’re planning to have an exercise, it’s including those other nations, we’re doing it within a multinational frame,” they’re quite open with that, and they broadcast it on social media, and the intention is to send the message. Any gaps identified? I think they keep it in their secrets.