Saab Viggen

Saab 37 Viggen
RoleStrike, training, reconnaissance and interceptor aircraft
Crew1 or 2
First FlightFebruary 1967
Entered Service1972
VersionsAJ37 (Attack), Sk37 (operational trainer), SF37 (overland reconnaissance), SH37 (overwater reconnaissance), JA37 (Fighter)
Dimensions (AJ, Sk, SF, SH versions)
Length53 ft 5 in16.3 m
Wingspan34 ft 9 in10.6 m
Height19 ft 4 in5.9 m
Wing area495 ft 1 in ² 46 m²
Dimensions (JA version)
Length53 ft 8 in16.4 m
Wingspan34 ft 7.8 in10.6 m
Height19 ft 6 in6.0 m
Wing areaft²
Weights (JA version)
Empty26,455 lb12,200 kg
Maximum takeoff44,090 lb20000 kg
EnginesAJ37/SH37: One RM8A Svenska Flygmotor/Pratt & Whitney JT8D-22
Thrust14771 to 28900 lbf66 to 13 kN
Maximum speedMach 2.1 (2,231 km/h) at 11,000 m (36.090 ft)
Combat range (Max load)1240 miles2000 km
Ferry range (Min load)mileskm
Service ceiling59060 ft18,000 m
Rate of climbft/minm/min
Thrust/weight N/kg
Armament1 Oerlikon KCA 30 mm cannon with 150 rounds; two BAE Skyflash or AIM-120 AMRAAM and up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder

The Saab Viggen (Thunderbolt¹) or Saab 37 is a Swedish fighter aircraft manufactured between 1970 and 1990 to replace the Saab Draken (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.

In the JA37 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 '60s 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 STRIL60 system.

The first operational squadron was established in 1972 at Såtenäs with a ground attack optimised version. After 110 of the original AJ37 and 18 Sk37 two-seat trainers were delivered, 26 of the SF37 reconnaissance version to replace the S35 Draken in 1975, and another 26 of the SH37 maritime reconnaissance and strike version were built in 1974, replacing the S32C Saab Lansen.

Although the Viggen was offered for sale worldwide, and regarded as a very competent aircraft, no export sales eventuated. 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 (the United States in particular).

The final Viggen variant was the JA37 interceptor. The last of 149 JA37s was delivered in 1990. Various upgrades have been performed over the years, mainly to cockpit equipment, weapons and sensor fit, but the Viggen is now being phased out in favor of the advanced later generation Gripen.

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.

See also

External links

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