(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.) — Saab has cut the ribbon on a new aerospace plant in West
Lafayette’s Purdue Discovery Park.
Saab will build airframes in West Lafayette for 350 T-7A Red Hawk training jets for the Air Force.
Saab expects to start production in two or three years, and increase its workforce from the current
60 or so to 300 by 2027.
Saab broke ground on the $37 million facility two years ago, and boasts that despite the
pandemic, it finished construction on time and on budget. Chairman Marcus Wallenberg notes
when the company first began building aircraft in the 1930s, American engineers traveled to its
headquarters in Sweden to assist. He says the Purdue plant, Saab’s seventh in the U.S., brings
the company full circle.
While the Red Hawk contract is the plant’s first project, CEO Micael Johansson says the
company plans to use the plant and its neighbors at Purdue to branch out into artificial
intelligence, sensor technology, fuel efficiency, self-piloting planes, and other advanced
manufacturing: He says Saab typically reinvests a fifth of its revenue in research and development,
and says having research partners just down the road — and a pipeline of potential new employees
— was a critical factor in the decision to locate in West Lafayette.
About 60% of the current employees have Purdue ties. Purdue president Mitch Daniels
predicts the plant will be the flagship of what he calls “a high-tech boomtown” in the research
park. He says as Saab’s work with Purdue pays dividends, other manufacturers will take notice.