Draken – 50 years in the air

October 25, 1955 saw the first flight of the Saab 35 Draken, with chief test pilot Bengt Olow at the controls. Today, 50 years later, the fighter is still in active service in Austria.

A Saab press release from October 25, 1955, reads, “It is in the natural run of things that this advanced aircraft construction has been the result of multifaceted teamwork, with large groups of aviation engineers with different specializations working together.”

The advanced aircraft construction that is the Saab 35 Draken later became the backbone of Sweden’s air defenses for many years. More than 500 Draken aircraft of different versions have served in the Swedish Air Force between 1960 and 1998. The Draken was also exported to Denmark, Finland and Austria, and the Austrian Air Force is still using its Draken aircraft today. In the US too, the Draken is still flying: six of the former Danish Draken aircraft are being used by test pilots at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, California.

When production of the Draken began it was the world’s first series-produced fighter with a double delta wing, and Sweden’s first aircraft with the capability of flying at twice the speed of sound. The Draken was originally developed as a high-altitude fighter, but as the threat situation changed it was increasingly used at lower altitudes. The Draken was produced in fighter versions J 35A, J 35B, J 35D and J 35F, surveillance version S 35E and training version SK 35C. The final version, the J 35J, was modified from the J 35F. The 51 Draken delivered to Denmark were primarily used as attack and surveillance aircraft and varied considerably from the other versions.

A total of 612 Draken were built, 12 of which under license in Finland.

The Draken’s 50th jubilee is being celebrated at the Swedish Air Force Museum in Linköping on October 25, with an air show, two newly opened Draken exhibitions and a seminar. One of the speakers at the seminar will be Erik Bratt, the man who led construction work on the Draken and is now almost 90 years old. “We didn’t really have supersonic aircraft in those days, so Saab had a pretty tough job to do. The results exceeded expectations, but of course I couldn’t dream that the Draken would still be in active service today,” says Erik Bratt.

Data for the J 35J
Engine: RM 6C (license-produced by Rolls Royce Avon)
Length: 15.34 m
Wingspan: 9.42 m
Wing area: 50 m2
Height: 3.89 m
Loaded weight: 10,500 kg
Max speed: Mach 2
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