As an attack aircraft, the Saab 32s had the most advanced weapons and electronic systems at the time.
Founded in 1937, Saab AB, a Swedish aerospace and defense company, is famous for its fighters. In the past, Saab also gave birth to a transonic attack aircraft line called Saab 32 Lansen, one of the dangerous attackers in the early years of the Cold War. By the end of World War II jet planes were considered the future of fighters.
In 1946 Saab was tasked with developing an aircraft to replace Saab 18 as Sweden’s standard attack aircraft. The requirement was to develop a jet-powered attack aircraft to replace a wide range of vintage aircraft. Its first flight took place in 1952, being a very advanced concept in both design and configuration, as it was an aircraft with the best design and quality in comparison to any other European design of the times.
The aircraft was designated Saab 32 Lansen, literally “the Lance”, similar to the names of later Swedish combat aircraft, such as Viggen or Draken.
Saab 32 Lansen was the first aircraft designed in Sweden where the design work was not based on ordinary blue-prints, but on a mathematical coordinate system. This is a tandem two-seat, single-engine transonic aircraft with a low-mounted swept-back wings, and equipped with advanced electronics, it is Sweden’s first aircraft to carry integrated search radar.
Saab initially intended to design Lansen as an attack aircraft (A32A), but later developed two more variants, the fighter (J32B) and the reconnaissance (S32C). This is due to the size of the aircraft that has allowed development to the above variants.
Saab 32 Lansen’s overall dimensions include a length of 15m (49 ft 0 in), wingspan of 13m (42 ft 8 in), height of 4.65m (15 ft 3 in) and a wing area of 37.4 square meters (403 sq ft).
During its long operational life, the Saab 32 also served as an electronic warfare platform and target-tug aircraft.
Saab 32 Lansen’s design was influenced by Messerschmitt, similarities can be found in Messerschmitt P.1101, P.1110, P.1111 and P.1112 projects. It is understandable that when the Second World War ended, many Messerschmitt engineers fled to Europe and brought with them confidential documents about German aircraft projects. Among them were the engineer and aerodynamicist Hermann Behrbohm, who came to be part of Saab’s core in the team around Saab 29 Tunnan and upcoming aircraft types like the Saab 32 Lansen and Saab 35 Draken.
The tail was designed similar to the main wings with two sweep-back small wings incorporating a single conventional vertical tail fin. Overall, Lansen has a sleek, streamlined and clean airframe design. The conical nose contained the Ericsson mapping and navigation radar, the forward antenna of which was housed in a large blister fairing underneath the fuselage, directly forward of the main landing gear. The radar array was a PS-431/A based on the French design that worked in coordination with the anti-ship Rb04C missile, one of the first “fire and forget” missiles.
The Saab 32 Lansen had a retractable tricycle undercarriage with a single wheel on all of the landing gear. The two-man pilot and navigator crew were contained in a pressurised cockpit equipped with a single-piece clamshell canopy; a second windscreen separates the cockpit in between the pilot and navigator to protect the latter in case of inadvertent jettisoning of the canopy.
The Saab 32 was equipped with a single engine, aspirated by a pair of semi-circle air intakes located on either side of the forward fuselage. The intakes were expertly contoured to the fine shapes inherent in the Lansen as a whole and the engine exhausted through a ring at the absolute rear of the design.
The Saab 32 Lansen’s engine was an afterburning Svenska Flygmotor RM6A turbojet engine, a Swedish version of the Rolls-Royce Avon. This engine generates approximately 47 kilo newtons of dry thrust and upwards of 65.3 kilo newtons with afterburner.
The aircraft can reach a maximum speed of 1200 km/h, a range of up to 2000 km along with a rate of climb of 100 m/s, its service ceiling was listed as 15000m. Lansen’s empty weight was 7.5 tons while the maximum take-off weight was about 13.5 tons.
As an attack aircraft, the Saab 32s had the most advanced weapons and electronic systems at the time, and these designs were also the precursors to the weapon system design being applied to fighters today. Namely the world’s first air-to-surface missile, the Swedish-developed Robot 04.
The attack variant of the Lansen could carry up to two RB04 missiles, one underneath each wing. In addition, depending on the variants and missions that Lansen will carry a variety of different weapons.
The basic weapons were four 20mm Bofors guns located at the nose, 12 or 24 unguided rockets. It could also carry 4 Rb 24 AIM Sidewinder missiles, ECM pods, target towing pods, jamming equipment, and chaff dispensers.
Since being commissioned in 1956, the Lansen have been extremely effective, both in service and precision of the weapon. Between 1954 and 1960, a total of 450 aircraft were manufactured. Interestingly, Lansen was once designed to carry nuclear weapons as a deterrent to defend the country, but eventually Lansen was never used in this role because Sweden has never produced such weapons.
Until retirement in 1997, Saab 32 Lansen was famous primarily for accidents, one third of all Lansens during 25 years of service were destroyed, killing 100 crew along with 7 civilians in Vikbo. The accidents were due to a combination of technical faults, the aircraft not being ready for service, and training deficiencies in regards to flying at night and in adverse weather.
The Saab 32 Lansen was Sweden’s last purpose-built attack aircraft, the replacement of the aircraft formally began in June 1971, the more advanced Saab 37 Viggen being slowly used to take over its attack responsibilities.
Although not the most successful design, Saab 32 Lansen could be proud of its very advanced capabilities thanks to its design process, this is the first design using a computer. Moreover, this was one of the first post-war designs to incorporate its own radar, in addition to being one of the world’s first operational swept back wing designs.
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