Saab F35 Draken

Saab has since the 1950s held a somewhat unique position in European military aircraft manufacture; it has produced a range of military aircraft of quality and striking design for its home country which remained neutral during the Cold War.  Sweden with a small population decided to adopt the stance of armed neutrality, displaying to the outside world a nation well equipped to defend itself against an aggressor.

Saab Draken
Saab Draken

One of the first aircraft to bring Saab to centre stage was the F35 Draken, a supersonic double delta wing interceptor. The Draken or Dragon saw service into the 1990s being able to deal with threats adequately at that time, now replaced by Saab Viggen and Gripen fighters. This is an outstanding service record for a fighter which was designed in response to a requirement in 1949. The Draken was a key element in Sweden’s air defence linked to ground radars with a high capacity air to ground data link making the Draken second only to the Convair F-106 in technology in its day. The Draken was also fast compared with its peers having a climb rate second only to the BAE Lightening with an initial climb rate of 50,000 ft per minute. The Draken could break mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) and has very good rough and ready air field capability.  Radar wise it had very powerful radar only surpassed by the F-15 Eagle's radar in Europe when the Eagles were deployed to Germany in 1977. Ease of service was a key requirement as many of the Swedish air force personnel are reservists. Overall the Draken was a superb aircraft often surpassing similar air frames of the major Cold War powers.

The design is unique with 80 degree sweep on forward wing becoming a 57 degree sweep half way down the wing. The wings are an all metal stressed skin construction and the fuselage is also all metal, it has tricycle landing gear with anti skid and debris deflection equipment on the nose wheel. A breaking parachute can also be deployed. The engine is a Svenska Flygmotor (Volvo) RM6 turbojet which is heavily based on a licensed Rolls Royce design.

The basic version the J 35A entered service in March 1960 armed with twin Aden 30mm cannon and AIM-9B sidewinder missiles. Some later versions dropped one cannon but the aircraft has 9 under-body hard points for a wide range of ordnance including rocket pods and anti ship missiles. Numerous avionic and radar updates throughout its long service life kept the Draken in service and some were exported  with Denmark having a squadron of fighters and a squadron of the tactical recon version, with the last Danish Draken being produced in 1977. Finland also ordered 12 Drakens in 1970 plus purchasing some surplus Swedish aircraft.  Austria bought some refurbished J35Ds in 1987 which boosted the inadequate Austrian air defences but was a cheap and out of date solution. Swedish Drakens retired from service in 1995, a remarkable service history.

Max Speed: 1,320mph (2125 km/h)
Combat Radius: 350 miles (564km)
Weapon load: Maximum of 3000kg of various weapons on 9 hard points

Photo shows recon version with nose sensors. Authors own photograph.

Saab 35 Draken, Jan Jorgensen. A look at the Draken written just after it was withdrawn from service. cover cover cover

Airfix Saab Draken Gift Set - 1:72 scale. This model kit contains everything you need, including the paint, paintbrush and glue. cover


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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T (18 April 2007), Saab F35 Draken,

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