Magnus Lewis-Olsson, President of Saab, Market Area Europe

On November 27, the members of the Steering Committee, led by General (Retd.) John R. Allen, unveiled the final report for the GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation Initiative (GNAI). The initiative consists of a series of policy papers that address the nature of NATO adaptation and the challenges it must overcome if it is to remain a viable and credible alliance for peace and stability in the transatlantic area. How do you see the alliance’s role evolving in the future?

Saab, as a major European defence industry with a customer and partner base in the majority of NATO member states, follows NATO transformation/adaptation and the challenging demands that future technology and warfare puts on Europe and its countries and societies.

In Europe we are awaking to a new reality filled with new security challenges, which includes fake news, cyber threats, regular and irregular warfare, terrorism and challenges with uncontrolled migration flows. Saab’s trademark has always been innovation in close partnership with our partners and customers. This is maybe more important now than ever. As a European defence industry, we are ready to support NATO’s adaption to meet these new challenges. We differ in some ways to other defence companies by spending about 25% on R&D each year. These are funds which are directed to new technologies to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

This paper, supported by Saab, is one piece in the debate around NATO’s adaption. The authors have extensive experience and knowledge about the subject and it will certainly help the alliance and its adaption efforts.


According to the report, the focus of conflict is shifting from physical locations to the digital space. How can NATO defend itself against wars fought on multiple fronts?

Technology is moving at an exponential pace and for the Alliance and other European countries this means the need for greater industrial efficiency and structural flexibility to be able to reciprocate to these emerging threats. The need for greater coordination between future defence capability and coordination with the defence industry will ensure that innovative products and systems are created to tackle the threats that exist today, and maybe more importantly, tomorrow.

The new White House administration is pushing NATO’s European members into fulfilling their defence spending pledges. At the same time, the United States is looking to internal markets to encourage domestic production. How are these new policies affecting non-US defence companies like Saab?

The requirement on member states to fulfil their 2% pledges will certainly, over time, influence defence spending. The increase will not only be restricted to member states but will, to a certain degree, have a spill-over effect also on the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and non-members in Europe. Much of the increased spending will be outside the scope of high-tech defence industries but nevertheless, at Saab we see these new policies’ as an opportunity to provide future innovations and projects that would have been hard to afford in another budget environment. Sometimes we will work in partnership with other industries situated within NATO member states.


Let’s go closer to home. NATO is not the only institution that is trying to anticipate the future. On November 13, twenty-three countries declared their willingness to participate in a new EU defence cooperation pact. What’s driving the European powers to cooperate more intensively on the military level?

The European Union has traditionally turned to NATO for defence as it’s been widely agreed that two parallel organisations would not necessarily mean doubled security. However, as member states, and maybe Germany and France more than others, are trying to tie the knot harder within Europe, we see that these intentions are migrating into the defence arena as well. For Saab, as a European defence company, we are keeping our eyes on the development and, furthermore, as Sweden is a part of this new cooperation pact, we do see business opportunities for defence companies throughout the region.

Saab sees that all member states, including the smaller countries, are determined to act in accordance with their defence capabilities and technological know-how. We do not see this as a French or German initiative to underpin their own industry, but rather as a way to bolster Europe’s defence and defence industry as a whole. It’s also an opportunity for regional cooperation to increase capabilities, availability and know-ho qw.


Federica Mogherini called the pact “a historic day for European defence’’ How do you see this project evolving? What should the initiative do to overcome national interests and become a real milestone in EU integration?

European states procure their defence and security systems mainly from within Europe and the US. We don’t see this as a future trade barrier towards the US as every country will have to find their own way to guarantee security. We do, however, see this as a first step towards a more integrated, and hopefully, more successful European defence business. The cooperation pact will undoubtedly put the finger on defence cooperation and for Saab this means business opportunities as we think we have something to offer as a partner in almost any defence segment.


The twenty-three member states are also committed to allocating more budget to research on innovative technology. This is also one of the recommendations of our Steering Committee for NATO’s adaptation. What new technology should NATO/EU states focus on if they want to be prepared for future military threats?

New technology would include Cyber, Big Data, C2, Energy Weapons and Space. Saab reinvests 25% of its sales profits each year back into R&D covering the spectrum of our broad product portfolio in order to keep its products and systems at the cutting edge of technology. This has always been a trade mark of Saab and it is part of the success story for Saab as a defence industry. We believe that this approach is transferable to a bigger scenario, such as NATO/EU, but governments and institutions need to balance their approach to these challenges in order to keep trust in these institutions and their continued promise of security to its citizens. One of the most fundamental pillars of government is to keep its people safe.



Born: 20 January 1964 in Gavle, Northern Sweden

Family: Wife Anne and two children

Lives: in London, United Kingdom


  • Master of Engineering Physics, Chalmers University of Technology (1989)

Previous positions and assignments:

  • Military service as Attack Diver (1983-1984)
  • Fighter Pilot in Swedish Air Force (1989-1999)
  • Gripen Test Pilot Saab AB (1999-2010)
  • Project test pilot for Gripen in South Africa (2006-2008)
  • Gripen Campaign Manager, Netherlands & Malaysia
  • General Manager for Saab Aeronautics in South Africa (from 2011)
  • CEO of Saab Grintek Defence (1 Dec 2012)
  • President Saab Market Area Sub Saharan Africa (1 Dec 2012)
  • President Saab Market Area Europe, Middle East and Africa (1 Apr 2015)
  • President Saab Market Area Europe (1 Jan 2017)

Languages: Fluent in Swedish and English, knowledge of Russian

Leisure activities: Swimming, Golf