INTERVIEW WITH LENNART LJUNGFELT, PRESIDENT, Aimpoint AB
By Eric Gourley
On his first day as President of Aimpoint AB, Lennart Ljungfelt walked into the office of Kjell Gunnarsson, R&D Manager for the red dot sighting originator.
“Just so you know, no one has been able to stay on as president of this company for longer than two years,” Gunnarsson warned him.
Nearly nine years later, Aimpoint’s military, law enforcement and hunting businesses are booming and Ljungfelt is still enjoying every minute at the helm.
“I was very excited when I came onboard and that feeling has only increased since,” he said. “I’m very happy with what we have accomplished, and there are so many new and exciting things that are possible within the next few years and within a decade. Our production volume keeps growing, too. We’re not talking about a few thousand sights a year. We’re talking about a huge number.”
Adoption by many of the world’s armed forces, and particularly the U.S. military, has contributed significantly to Aimpoint’s success over the past 15 years. The company earned its first U.S. military contract in 1997 and Ljungfelt signed the latest major deal for 565,000 sights in August 2009.
“Obviously civilian hunting is big for us, too, but it’s hard to deny how big that first contract with the U.S. Army was for Aimpoint, convincing the Army that we have the sight they need,” Ljungfelt said.
Shipments of its CompM4, the M68 Close Combat Optic sight under contract to the U.S. Army, surpassed one million in late 2010.
“That’s remarkable in itself when you consider it’s an army of 880,000 people,” Ljungfelt said. “The truth is the earlier versions we’ve supplied have served long and well with the forces and are taken out of operation.”
Business has increased eightfold under Ljungfelt, who was a natural choice to end the turnover in the president’s office and help Aimpoint meet the demands of an expanding market while maintaining quality and performance.
He started joining his father on hunting trips at age 5.
“He was hunting several times a week,” Ljungfelt said. “He came home from work and immediately pulled out the shotgun or the rifle. I followed him everywhere. By the time I became a teenager, I was a little bit sick of hunting. In my late teenage years I got hooked on it again myself, but not to quite the same extent. I’m not a fanatic like he was, but I do love it.”
Military service was mandatory in Sweden until 2010 and all men were expected to serve once they turned 18.
“When I came into service in 1980, I knew I would do my time and I wouldn’t do a single day more. It wasn’t so interesting to me.”
After two months, Ljungfelt’s platoon commander sat him down to discuss his future.
“Do you have any plan to continue with a military career?” the captain asked.
“No, sir,” Ljungfelt answered. “No way.”
The captain stared back at Ljungfelt.
“Good, because I have the same opinion.”
A few months later he was chasing Ljungfelt around with a contract.
“It turned out there were parts of it that really appealed to me,” said Ljungfelt, who was commanding a 12-man air defence missile unit. “I had permission to shoot down aircraft in wartime, and I felt a responsibility. I was attracted by military tactics and over a period of only a few months I had slid into the direction that this is what I wanted to do with my life. It was just a complete shift in my thinking. I studied economics in high school and my plan was to be an accountant or something like that but I realised the military was just too good to let go, and that’s why I stayed almost 16 years.”
For the last few years, Ljungfelt was a battery commander in the peacetime organisation and an advisor to the armor division commander in air defence issues for the wartime organisation. He retired as a major.
Ljungfelt went on to sell the RBS 23 BAMSE defence missile system for Bofors, then a subsidiary of Saab specialising in weapon