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Bashing with the Swedes

Picture courtesy of Graham HaynesOne of the highlights of the year for enthusiasts was the recent deployment of Swedish Air Force Viggens to Coltishall, in deepest Norfolk, reports Gary Parsons

First due for April, it was off, then on again for September, before suddenly switching back to the Spring and the week of 12 - 18 May. Returning a visit to Sweden by 41 Squadron last year, F21 arrived on Friday 11 May with four single-seat SF37 and two dual-cockpit SK37 variants for the week-long stay. Arrival on Friday was met with glorious skies, only for the following week to be subject of a series of low pressures, with wind and cloud the norm. This did not prevent Coltishall from being a mecca for many, with parking at Crash Gate 3 at a premium! Support for the deployment was provided by C130s 847 on the 11th and 846 on the 18th.

SF37 ViggenClick

The SF photographic reconnaissance version was designed to replace the S35E Draken and a production contract was awarded to SAAB in early 1973, with a first flight on 21 May. It was intended to be used mainly as an overland reconnaissance aircraft that could permit operations day and night, at low or high altitude and at long distances.

It is basically an AJ37 that lacks the former's ability to carry as much weapons, and instead of a radar has seven cameras in the nose. The cameras comprise of three SKa 24C-120s for horizon to horizon coverage, one SKa 24-57 for wide angle pictures, two SKa 31-600s for high altitude or stand off photography, and an VKA 702 IR-linescan camera. On the instrument panel where there normally is a radar scope the SF has an photo-sighting "periscope". For night photography, a pod is carried on the left fuselage station, with three SKa 34-75 cameras loaded with IR sensitive film in the front. The rear of the pod houses electronic IR flashes, as does a complementary pod on the starboard fuselage station.

The SF can carry up to six Sidewinders of the AIM-9B/J model or four Sidewinders of the AIM-9L model for self-defence. The last SF was delivered on 7 February 1980 - in all, the SF has served with F13, F21 and F17. Twenty-eight examples were delivered between 1977 and 1980, with retirement expected in 2003.

Apparently the staff at Coltishall were going to arrange a free photocall and the Swedes were entirely happy about this. However, it transpired that an agreement with an aviation magazine for exclusive photo rights of the Viggens' visit had been made prior to their arrival without the OC's knowledge, who was of the mind that the visit is not exclusive to anyone. To settle the issue the magazine's photoshoot was cancelled, but also the free photocall 'better not happen'. This prevented us from bringing you a more in-depth report as planned, but we're not aware of any restrictions on pictures taken outside the base, so here you are!

For the record, present at Coltishall were SF37 Viggens 37974/64, 37960/60, 37976/66 & 37958/58 plus SK37 Viggens 37802/81 & 37804/83 (borrowed from F4).

The Viggen is a multi-role fighter, first introduced in 1971. The name 'Viggen' means 'The Thunderbolt', derived from the Norse god Thor's warhammer "Mjölner". In service with the Swedish air force in several versions, upgrades have enabled the fighter to compete with later types and will see it continue in service until 2006.

In 1952 studies were started to design a replacement for the Saab Draken. In 1954, 'Project 1357' was the first to have a canard layout and in 1961 the Pratt &Whitney JT8D-22 was chosen as the engine, to be locally built under licence, with a bespoke afterburner. A two-seater, the prototype first flew in Feb 8th 1967, when it was predicted that the Swedish Air Force would purchase 800+ Viggens. In order to make the airframe smaller, it was later decided to replace the navigator with a navigational computer. By the time of service entry in 1971, the order had been reduced to 329 aircraft.

Supporting the departure was Hercules 846A requirement was that the aircraft would be able to operate from 500m runways. To reduce the landing distance, the HUD is used as a precision landing aid, making it possible to aim just 30m in from the threshold, and the landing gear can withstand sink rate of 5m/s, so landings can be done without any flare. A thrust reverser removes the need for a parachute.

The SK37 Viggen two-seat version was introduced in 1973, with 17 examples delivered. To make room for the second cockpit, fuel and avionics were removed, so it has a shorter range than the single-seater and lacks a radar. The fin is taller, plus the rear cockpit has two periscopes to give forward vision. It will remain in service for a long time yet, with ten being converted to the SK37E ECM aggressor standard.


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