MoD gives £11m defence contract to Saab

The Ministry of Defence has awarded Swedish auto maker Saab a contract to provide Counter-IED (Counter-Improvised Explosive Device) training for the British Army.

Saab appeared over the moon about the contract today, issuing a statement trumpeting about the one-year contract. And it’s hardly surprising as, according to Saab, it is worth an estimated £11 million.

“Saab has developed a new modular training system to meet the evolving need to train troops in counter-IED,” said Gunilla Fransson, head of business area security and defence solutions within Saab.

“The system will be used prior to and on operations in remote environments with embedded personnel. I am fully convinced that this capability will save lives.”

According to Saab, the training will be delivered by its newly developed instrumented training system ATES C-IED. This is described as a “fully instrumented tactical engagement system developed to meet the training needs of current and future improvised explosive devices threats and the wider aspects of counter insurgency”.

Saab will provide a managed training service with expert field teams to support the use of ATES C-IED as well as delivering post-action analysis. The company said the system supported the rapid adaptation of TTP:s (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures) and the equipment necessary for units to remain “steps ahead of potential adversaries”.

Saab said it started working with the MoD in September 2009 when it was asked to help the army address the C-IED threat more effectively. By last December, Saab had recognised that most of the training and evaluation capability already existed – and the shortfall was based on the need for objective evidence about the use of the Hand Held Metal Detectors.

It added: “By using existing technology in an innovative manner, Saab was able to integrate a prototype module in less than 53 days. With a better understanding of the need the MoD were able to set a Concept Demonstrator Demonstration contract on Saab. Over the months of September and early October 2010, Saab trained 1612 personnel from 16 Air Assault Brigade before their deployment on operations.”

The MoD contract was therefore awarded to a Scandinavian, not British, company. We’re not sure if this was because British companies lacked the tech know-how for the job – or were just too expensive.

We contacted the MoD to ask them about their policies for dishing out multi-million pound contracts. They are working on a response for us.

Meanwhile, experts today warned that the government’s spending review would boost the push for IT offshoring.

Sarah Burnett, Ovum senior analyst, said the review, expected on Wednesday, would bring little unexpected news for the IT industry.

She explained: “The government’s policy for cutting public sector IT expenditure has been made clear through the imposition of a moratorium on new IT investment, spending limits set for the future and on-going negotiations with IT suppliers to push down costs of existing contracts.

“The reality of the cuts is that government departments and suppliers will be left with little choice but to go for the cheapest options for service delivery and that will boost the push for off-shoring.”

Burnett said demand for off-shoring would first grow as a result of the government’s negotiations with existing IT suppliers to deliver the same for less – offshoring is one way for suppliers to deliver the requisite cuts in prices.

In addition, the spectre of a 25-40 percent reduction in spending would boost demand for business process outsourcing (BPO) among government departments. Burnett highlighted that fact that when costs are the primary driver for change, BPO becomes an attractive proposition.

She continued: “The government and suppliers still have political barriers and legal hurdles to deal with: the voting public is unlikely to approve of public sector jobs going off shore and legislation such as the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) means that benefits such as public sector pensions have to be considered in prices as part of the transfer of services to outsourcing companies.

“Despite this, offshoring is being considered by the industry.

“However, the situation in local government will be different where elected members are expected to continue to oppose offshoring and to push for change that boosts jobs and businesses locally.”

* Update: An MOD Spokesperson said: “Counter-IED operators deploying to Afghanistan are benefiting from cutting edge technology developed by SAAB. The new training has been introduced as an urgent operational requirement and will help troops detect the deadly devices planted by the enemy that are killing and injuring Afghan civilians and ISAF troops alike.”

A Saab spokesman told TechEye that about 80% of the jobs created by the new contract would be British. He said at least 30 people in the UK would work on the training project.