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Saab Viggen jet fighter aeroplanes
Saab Viggen airplane pictures
Saab Viggen pictures
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Swedish Aircraft viggen pictures
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Saab Viggen fighter aircraft

The Saab Viggen (The Bolt) or Saab 37 is a Swedish fighter aircraft manufactured between 1970 and 1990 to replace the Saab J 35 Draken (The Kite or Dragon).

The first studies aimed at developing a successor to the Draken were carried out between 1952 and 1957 involving the legendary Finnish aircraft designer Aarne Lakomaa. Construction started in 1964, with a first prototype maiden flight in 1967. The aim was to produce a robust single-engined fighter with excellent STOL performance that could be operated from improvised facilities such as roads and highways in the event of nuclear attacks on major installations. Other requirements included supersonic ability at low level, Mach 2 performance at altitude, and the ability to make short landings at low angles of attack (to avoid damaging improvised runways).

To meet these design goals, Saab selected a radical canard¹ configuration: a conventional delta wing with small, high-set canard wings. Canards have since become common in fighter aircraft, notably with the Eurofighter Typhoon and the IAI Kfir. As both the wing and the forward canard provided lift, the Viggen may be considered a modern biplane. To withstand the stresses of no-flare landings, Saab made extensive use of titanium in the construction of the Viggen, specially in the fuselage; and incorporated an unusual wheel arrangement for the main landing gear, which as two tires in tandem. Such layout is common in airliners and cargo planes, but it is rare in fighters. The plane was designed from the beginning to be easy to repair and service, even for personnel without much training.

The aircraft was to a large degree designed using U.S. technology and expertise, thanks to a military technology cooperation agreement between the U.S. and Sweden. This was part of the military security guarantee given to Sweden (officially neutral) by the U.S. The U.S. desired a strong Swedish air force in order to protect the Polaris missile submarines deployed by the Swedish west-coast. As a consequence construction of the fighter was both faster and cheaper than would otherwise have been the case. (Reference: Hemliga atomubåtar gav Sverige säkerhetsgaranti Framsyn 2005, Nr. 1 (The Swedish Defence Research Agency’s bi-monthly publication))


Tha cockpit and air intake of JA 37 Viggen



In the JA 37 version, power is provided by a single Svenska Flygmotor RM8B turbofan - essentially a licence-built version of the same Pratt & Whitney JT8D that powered commercial airliners of the '1960s like the DC-9 and the 727 but with an afterburner. The engine also incorporated a thrust-reverser to use during landings. Only Viggen and the Panavia Tornado carry both afterburners and thrust-reversers. Viggen featured a navigational computer, the Datasaab CK37 which by Swedish means was a significant technological achievement at that time. It utilised the STRIL 60 system.

The first operational squadron was established in 1972 at Såtenäs with the ground attack optimised version. After 110 of the original AJ 37 and 18 SK 37 two-seat trainers were delivered, 26 of the SF 37 reconnaissance version to replace the S 35 Draken in 1975, and another 26 of the SH 37 maritime reconnaissance and strike version were built in 1974, replacing the S 32C Saab Lansen.

Although the Viggen was offered for sale worldwide, and regarded as a very competent aircraft, no export sales occurred. Reasons to explain Saab's failure to sell a competitively priced and well-respected aircraft include the Swedish government's relatively strict controls on arms exports to undemocratic countries, potential customers' doubts about continuity of support and supply of spare parts in the event of a conflict disapproved of by Sweden, and strong diplomatic pressure of larger nations. United States blocked an export of Viggen to India in 1978 by not issuing an export license for the RM8/JT8D engine, forcing India to choose the SEPECAT Jaguar instead.

The Viggen saw initial service in natural metal, later on receiving an extremely elaborate disruptive camouflage scheme; and then a light/dark gray on its final days.

The final Viggen variant was the JA 37 interceptor. The last of 149 JA 37s was delivered in 1990. Various upgrades have been performed over the years, mainly to cockpit equipment, weapons and sensor fit, but the Viggen has been phased out in favor of the advanced later generation Gripen and flew its last flight in 25 November 2005.

Burt Rutan named his Vari-Viggen kit aircraft after the Saab Viggen.

¹ Viggen, or a "Vigg" is also a tufted duck (Aythya fuligula), which is found in Sweden. Coincidentally(?) "Canard" is French for duck. But the Viggen duck has absolutely nothing to do with the Swedish fighter plane. The name 'Viggen' has a mythological background: it is the clap of Mjolnir, Thor's hammer.

General characteristics

Crew: One

Length: 53 ft 9 in (16.4 m)

Wingspan: 34 ft 9 in (10.6 m)

Height: 19 ft 4 in (5.9 m)

Wing area: 500 ft² (46 m²)

Empty weight: 26,900 lb (12,200 kg)

Loaded weight: lb (kg)

Max takeoff weight: 44,000 lb (20,000 kg)

Powerplant: 1× Volvo RM8B afterburning turbofan, 16,200 lbf dry, 28,110 lbf afterburning (72.1 kN / 125.0 kN)



Maximum speed: Mach 2.1, 1,386 mph at 36,100 ft (2,231 km/h at 11,000 m)

Range: 1,240 mi (2,000 km)

Service ceiling: 59,100 ft (18,000 m)

Rate of climb: ft/min (m/min)



1x 30 mm Oerlikon KCA cannon with 150 rounds

Six missile stations for two Skyflash, four AIM-120 AMRAAM (JA 37D), or six AIM-9 Sidewinder or four 135 mm (5.4 in) rocket pods.


All images on this site copyright © 2006 Steve de Roeck. Please do not copy or reproduce any of these images, in any way, without the authorisation of the copyright holder.

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