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Saab 35 Draken

The Saab 35 Draken is a Swedish fighter-interceptor developed and manufactured by Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (SAAB) between 1955 and 1974.

Development of the Saab 35 Draken started in 1948 as the Swedish air force future replacement for the then also in development Saab 29 Tunnan day fighter and Saab 32B Lansen night fighter.

It featured an innovative but unproven double delta wing, which led to the creation of a sub-scale test aircraft, the Saab 210, which was produced and flown to test this previously unexplored aerodynamic feature.

The full-scale production version entered service with frontline squadrons of the Swedish Air Force on 8 March 1960.

It received the designation Flygplan 35 and was produced in several variants and types, most commonly as a fighter type with the prefix J (J 35), standing for Jaktflygplan (Pursuit-aircraft), the Swedish term for fighter aircraft.

The Saab 35 Draken is known for, among other things, its many “firsts” within aviation.

It was the first Western European-built combat aircraft with true supersonic capability to enter service and the first fully supersonic aircraft to be deployed in Western Europe.

Design wise it was one of, if not the first, combat aircraft designed with double delta wings, being drawn up by early 1950.

The unconventional wing design also had the side effect of making it the first known aircraft to be capable of and perform the Cobra manoeuvre.

It was also one of the first Western-European-built aircraft to exceed Mach 2 in level flight, reaching it on 14 January 1960.

The Draken functioned as an effective supersonic fighter aircraft of the Cold War period.

Even though the type was designed and intended as an interceptor, it was considered to be a very capable dogfighter for the era.

In Swedish service, it underwent several upgrades, the ultimate of these being the J 35J model.

By the 1980s, the SAF’s Drakens had largely been replaced by the more advanced Saab 37 Viggen fighter, while the introduction of the more capable Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter was expected in service within a decade,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 SAF opted to retire the Draken during December 1999.

The type was also exported to the air forces of Austria, Denmark and Finland.

Danish aircraft have been exported, post-service, to the United States where they have seen use as training aircraft for test pilots.


Saab 210 Draken

Also known as Lilldraken, a scaled-down, proof of concept experimental aircraft to evaluate the double delta wing configuration, not specifically a Draken variant but included here for sequence purposes.

Full-size Drakens

J 35A

Fighter version, total production 90 including prototypes.

The J 35As were delivered between 1959 and 1961.

The tail section was lengthened after the 66th aircraft to house a new afterburner for additional thrust, the longer tail cone unexpectedly reduced drag.

This forced the installation of a retractable tailwheel.

The two versions were nicknamed Adam kort and Adam lång.

The Adam was fitted with a French Cyrano Radar (Swedish designation PS-02) as the Swedish radar hadn’t been developed in time.

J 35B

Fighter version, built and delivered between 1962 and 1963, total production 73.

This variant had improved radar and gun sights and was also fully integrated into the Swedish STRIL 60 system: a combat guidance and air surveillance system.

Fitted with a Swedish built radar PS-03.

SK 35C

25 J 35As with short tail sections rebuilt into a twin-seated trainer version.

The minor modification meant that the aircraft could easily be converted back to a J 35A standard if necessary.

The trainer version lacked armament.

J 35D

Fighter version, delivered between 1963 and 1964, total production 120.

The aircraft had a new and more powerful Rolls-Royce Avon 300 (RM6C), which could deliver 77.3 kN thrust when using its afterburner.

This was also the fastest Draken version, capable of accelerating until out of fuel.

It was also the last Draken to carry two cannons.

Fitted with the PS-03 radar.

S 35E

Reconnaissance version, total production 60 with 32 built from scratch and the remainder converted from the J 35D model.

The armament and radar were removed, and several cameras (of ortho and oblique types) fitted.

The aircraft was unarmed to make room for the nine cameras of Vinten design (five in the nose and four in the fuselage) but was fitted with a countermeasure system to increase its survivability.

It also carried an active infrared reconnaissance system of EG&G design in a pod fitted to a hard point.

J 35F

Fighter version, delivered between 1965 and 1972, total production: 230.

This variant had improved electronics and avionics, e.g., integrated radar, aim and missile systems.

The aircraft’s main armament was IR and SARH versions of the Hughes Falcon missile originally intended for the J 35D, but one of the cannons was removed to make space for more avionics.

The J 35F2 was a J 35F, produced with a Hughes N71 Infrared search and track sensor.

This was a change in the production line from the no. 35501 airframe.

The Hawé mods I & II were carried out on the P/S-01/011 radar sets in the early 1980s to improve resistance to ECM.

J 35J

In 1985 the Swedish government decided to modify 54 J 35F2s to the J 35J standard.

In 1987, 12 more modifications were ordered: between 1987 and 1991, the aircraft received a longer lifespan, modernized electronics and cannon, additional two Sidewinder (AIM-9P) pylons under the air intakes and increased external fuel capacity.

The final operational J 35J flew for the last time in 1999.

Saab 35H

Proposed export version for the Swiss Air Force; none sold or delivered.

Saab 35XD

51 Danish export versions

F-35 single-seat strike aircraft, TF-35 two-seat trainer and RF-35 reconnaissance aircraft.

The type was heavily modified to make it into a strike aircraft; compared to the Swedish versions the outer wings where completely redesigned, and the radar was missing.

These aircraft could carry heavy bombs as well as Bullpup missiles; during the WDNS upgrade of the 1980s they received the ALQ-162 jammer, a Marconi 900 Series HUD and a Ferranti LRMTS (laser rangefinder and marked target seeker)

Saab 35XS

12 fighter version units for the Finnish Air Force; built by Saab and assembled under licence by Valmet in Finland.  

The “S” stood for “Suomi” (Finland).

Saab 35BS

Used J 35Bs sold to Finland.

Saab 35FS

Used J 35F1s sold to Finland.

Saab 35CS

Used SK 35Cs sold to Finland.

Saab 35Ö

In the mid-1980s, Saab re-purchased 24 J 35D aircraft from the Swedish Air Force and converted them into the J 35Ö version (also called J 35OE in English literature) for export to Austria.

Austria bought AIM-9P5 all aspect Sidewinders for these aircraft during the war in former Yugoslavia.





15.35 m (50 ft 4 in)


9.42 m (30 ft 11 in)


3.89 m (12 ft 9 in)

Wing area

49.2 m2 (530 sq ft)



Empty weight

7,865 kg (17,339 lb)

Gross weight

11,000 kg (24,251 lb)

Max take-off weight

11,914 kg (26,266 lb)


1 × Svenska Flygmotor RM6C afterburning turbojet engine,

56.5 kN (12,700 lbf) thrust dry, 78.4 kN (17,600 lbf) with afterburner


Maximum speed

2,450 km/h (1,520 mph, 1,320 kn) at 11,000 m (36,089 ft)

Maximum speed

Mach 2

Ferry range

2,750 km (1,710 mi, 1,480 nmi) with external drop tanks

Service ceiling

20,000 m (66,000 ft)

Rate of climb

199 m/s (39,200 ft/min)

Wing loading

231.6 kg/m2 (47.4 lb/sq ft)



Take-off roll

800 m (2,625 ft)



1× or 2× 30 mm AKAN M/55 ADEN cannon with 100 rounds per gun

(Saab 35F had one cannon omitted (with 120 rounds) to fit avionics needed for Falcon missile integration, earlier variants and export variants retained twin guns.)


Six for ordnance, or drop tanks on the bottom two hard points, with a capacity of 2,900 kg (6,393 lb), with provisions to carry combinations of:


2× 75 mm air-to-ground rocket pods ventrally or 12× 135 mm rockets on six under wing pylons


Rb 24, Rb 27 and Rb 28 air-to-air missiles


The Danish export version, (F-35), was modified according to NATO standards and was fitted with 1,000lb bomb hardpoints.



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