The Saab 35 was not the first type of jet fighter built by Sweden, but it was considered one of the most efficient supersonic aircraft in the early stages of the Cold War.

Saab 35 Draken review on Dung Tran Military channel

Introduce

Swedish Air Force has a tradition of using domestic aircraft manufactured by Saab in cooperation with some other domestic firms such as Volvo, Erricson.

It can be said that the Saab aircraft is the pinnacle of the Swedish defense industry, these self-designed aircraft are often extremely unique in appearance. Saab 35 Draken is one of them, it looks like an alien flying vehicle. This is a fighter model developed for the Swedish Air Force from the 1950s.

The Saab 35 was not the first type of jet fighter built by Sweden, but it was considered one of the most efficient supersonic aircraft in the early stages of the Cold War.

Few know that the Su-27 is not the first fighter capable of performing the “cobra” maneuver, but the Saab 35 Draken, which has been doing this before the Su-27 for decades, although its movements were not really as smooth as Sukhoi’s fighter jet.

Up to 651 units of all  Sabb 35 variants were produced, and they only retired completely in 2005. This fighter line was not only used by Sweden but also exported to the other neighboring countries including Austria, Finland and Denmark.

Saab 35
Saab 35

Background

After World War 2, as the jet era started, Sweden foresaw the need for a jet fighter that could intercept bombers at high altitude and also successfully engage fighters. The Draken was developed during the 1940s and 1950s to replace Sweden’s first generation of jet-powered fighter aircraft, the Saab J29 Tunnan and the Saab J32 Lansen.

Its first flight took place in 1955 and was entered in service in 1960, being amongst the most advanced and remarkable fighters of its time.

Design

The Draken is designed as a tailless fighter, with a single vertical tail fin. The fuselage has a circular section, and the inboard portion of the wing is a large-chord surface which extended almost to the oval air intakes are located on either side of the fuselage.

The fuselage of the Draken consisted of two sections, front and rear, joined by bolts. The forward section, accommodates the fire-control radar, cockpit, nose undercarriage, integral fuel tanks and various systems.

The rear portion, which was manufactured as a single piece alongside the rest of the inner wing, contained the engine and afterburner, bag-type fuel tanks, armament, main landing gear, and other systems.

It featured an innovative double delta wing, a previously-unexplored aerodynamic configuration, with one delta wing within another larger delta. The inner wing has an 80 degrees angle for high speed performance, while the outer 60 degrees wing gives good performance at low speeds.

Saab 35
Saab 35

Avionics

The Draken can boast not only being a radical and new design thus making it a very advanced one by the first decades of the Cold War. Saab 35 was originally designed with a single seat, the cockpit of the Draken featured mostly Swedish-sourced instrumentation.

The radar was a very sophisticated one – A PS-02A based on the French Thomson-CSF Cyrano radar. It had a range of 24 km and targets were normally detected at 24 km, incorporated an Identification Friend or Foe system.

It was among the first fighters in incorporating an on-board radar and the earlier version of the data-link system, whose enhanced version was incorporated in the J37 Viggen and the JAS 39 Gripen. Indeed, the Draken incorporated the STRIL 60 ground-control network that enable Draken pilots a firing guidance through the on-board instruments, being the system also capable to resist electronic jamming.

For export customers, the Draken was outfitted with a Ferranti-built Airpass II fire-control radar. The Draken was also fitted with a three-axis autopilot.

Saab 35
Saab 35

Powerplant and performance

Propulsion was provided by a single Svenska Flygmotor RM6B or RM6C turbojet engine, bestowing a maximum speed of 2,450 km/h at 11,000m. The ferry range listed at 2,750km with external drop tanks.

It also had a superior service ceiling at 20,000m in comparison with fighters of its times, as well as the rate of climb is 199 m/s. Aside the fact of being the first European supersonic jet fighter, the Draken was the first fighter to have short takeoff and landing capacities.

A ram turbine, positioned under the aircraft’s nose, provided emergency power, while the engine also featured a built-in emergency starter unit. The Draken could deploy a drag chute to reduce its landing distance.

Armament

The principal armament was carried externally, up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles were carried on hard points beneath the wings and fuselage; alternative payloads include a variety of bombs and rockets.

Earlier version of the Draken had two 30 mm Aden M/55 cannons located within each of the inboard wing panels, later versions having only one cannon. In place of the cannons, additional fuel tanks could be fitted in the same space. For aerial reconnaissance missions, a variety of camera pods could be carried underneath the fuselage.

Saab 35
Saab 35

Operations

Despite being conceptualized as an interceptor, Saab 35 performed well in dogfights and was able to undertake ground attack, training, and reconnaissance missions as well. And it proved to be a very tough and resistant design, as it is among the few jet fighter designs to be in service for 50 years. The design was so unique that, in fact, the Draken was studied for the design and development of the F16XL experimental prototype.

In Swedish service, the Draken underwent several upgrades, the ultimate of these being the J35J model. By the 1980s, the Swedish Air Force’s Drakens had largely been replaced by the more advanced Saab 37 Viggen fighter, while the introduction of the more capable Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter was expected in service within a decade, although delayed.

As a consequence of cutbacks and high maintenance costs, the Swedish Air Force opted to retire the Draken during December 1999. Austria was the last country to have the Draken in active military service. In 2005, these Drakens were retired, having been replaced by former Swiss Air Force F-5 Tiger IIs, while waiting for new Eurofighter Typhoons to take their place in the long term.

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