LONDON — Switzerland has become the latest customer for the Anglo-Swedish developed next generation light anti-tank weapon in a deal announced by Saab on Wednesday.
The deal, valued at 1.035 billion krona (U.S. $120 million), will see the weapon and associated training gear delivered between 2018 and 2021.
There is also a wider framework agreement between Saab and armasuisse, the Swiss defense procurement office, allowing further purchases up to 2030.
The next generation light anti-tank weapon, or NLAW, fills a Swiss capability gap caused by the decommissoning without replacement of the Dragon M47 2008. For the moment, the Swiss Armed Forces has only the Panzerfaust, which is now about to reach the end of its life.
The purchase of the NLAW type of weapon was confirmed in Switzerland's 2016 armament program which mandated the procurement of three types of shoulder-fired multipurpose weapons by the end of 2019.
The contract could see Saab opt to move production of the weapon from the current assembly site operated by Thales UK in Northern Ireland, according to the Swedish executive responsible for the program.
The shoulder launched weapon was developed by Saab and produced by Thales UK in a joint program to re-equip the British and Swedish armies starting 2009 with a new short-range weapon able to destroy main battle tanks.
Görgen Johansson, the head of Saab’s Dynamics business area, said though, that no decision had been made on whether the Swiss weapons would be assembled by Thales UK’s factory just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland.
"My ambition is to continue to have NLAW produced in Northern Ireland but we are looking at other options," he said.
The Saab executive declined to discuss other possible sites but said the decision to keep assembly in Northern Ireland would depend on issues like delivery and price.
Thales UK confirmed talks aimed at keeping NLAW production at the current site were ongoing.
"We are in discussion with Saab over manufacture of NLAW in Belfast and hopeful of securing further manufacture of the weapon in Northern Ireland," said a spokesman.
The NLAW assembly line has been mothballed since early 2015 awaiting a new order.
The supply chain for the weapon is predominantly British but some systems, including the Saab Bofors Dynamics Switzerland-produced warhead, are sourced from elsewhere.
The Swiss order brings the number of announced customers for NLAW to five, including Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden and the U.K.
Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are also touted by some media sources as customers.
Johansson declined to discuss the identity of unannounced customers, beyond confirming there were some, but said Saab was talking to other potential users on the back of increasing interest in the weapons generated by the increasing threat from armored vehicles.