UAE Defense Fund and Saab Enter Agreement for Aerospace 3D Printing

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Tawazun Economic Council, a venture capital arm of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) military, has announced an agreement with Swedish aerospace/defense conglomerate Saab, to develop additive manufacturing (AM) applications for UAE Air Force and Air Defense (AFAD) spare parts. Saab has extensive experience in printing aerospace spares, and in 2017, the company was one of 11 cofounders of Additive Manufacturing Excellence for Industry (AMEXCI), a consortium including some of Sweden’s largest corporations.

Relatedly, Tawazun announced its partnership with Saab only a few days after the former revealed a project quite similar to AMEXCI: ‘Sindan’, the Emirati Center of Excellence for 3D Printing. Sindan, located in Abu Dhabi and already operational, is the product of collaboration between Tawazun and companies in the UAE. Although not mentioned in the announcement, one of the companies is likely Al Seer Marine, a maritime firm with direct ties to the UAE defense establishment, which just unveiled a 3D printed drone boat last week.

Image courtesy of Tawazun

In a press release announcing the partnership with Saab, Abdullah Saif Al Adani, Tawazun’s Chief Economic Program Officer, commented, “This collaboration benefits all parties by creating value through locally manufactured products, promoting self-sufficiency and human capability development, and supporting local manufacturing. Additionally, it facilitates the transfer of technology and enhances the UAE’s sovereign capabilities in the areas of air force and air defense.” The Managing Director of Saab in the UAE, Anna-Karin Rosén, added, “Saab is deeply committed to being an important strategic partner to the UAE’s AFAD, and we are honored by the prospect of cooperating with Tawazun Council as it seeks to strengthen sovereign manufacturing capabilities that will ensure sustainable growth of the defense sector.”

Given the UAE’s growing interest in applying AM to the maritime sector, it is notable that Saab also has a sizable presence in naval production: not only could the relationship expand to areas beyond aerospace, the technology transfer involved between Tawazun and Saab could very well become a two-way street. That would be especially valuable in the context of Saab’s role in producing submarines, since AM has been attracting increasing interest for use in submarine output.

Beyond the technological side of things, NATO considers the UAE to be a crucial ally, and Sweden (along with Finland) is currently working hard to become a member of the Western military alliance. Sweden’s path to membership has hit a rough patch lately, due to objections from Turkey. On the other hand, the US seems to be using Turkey’s desire for new F-16s as leverage to dampen its anti-Swedish stance.

Along those same lines, Saab’s moving to tighten its relations with the UAE — specifically concerning a timely topic in military news like AM — could be just the sort of thing that puts Sweden’s membership on a faster track. In any case, the Saab-Tawazun partnership is a solid reminder of how critical advanced manufacturing is to relationships between nations.

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