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A grey Draken is covered by snow
One of the last Drakens to serve with the Swedish Air Force sits in the snow.

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Saab Draken

The Saab J35’s name, “Draken” can mean both Dragon or Kite in the swedish language. This ambiguity was intended by its designers, letting the former stand for the Draken’s abilities and the latter for the Draken’s design idea. The revolutionary shape of its wing stems from the idea of combining two delta wings with different angled sweep into one wing: one for higher speeds, one for lower speeds. This solution provided the Draken with a maximum of stability and agility at both higher and lower speeds, while at the same time providing it with a high load capacity for fuel and arms.

The Saab 210B
The Saab 210B or Lilledraken. See the J35 Draken in the back for size comparison.
After its development had already been commissioned in 1949, the revolutionary concept for the Draken was first tested by a smaller “proof-of-concept” plane, the Saab 210, which was also referred to as “Lilledraken” (The small Draken). The Lilledraken was half as big as the final Draken. It flew first on January 21st 1952 and is preserved today at the Swedish Air Force Museum. The maiden flight of the prototype of the big Draken took place on Oktober 25th 1955. The second prototype became famous for becoming the first aircraft to break the barrier of sound during a climb. This hadn’t even been intended at that time, but still showed the capabilities of the new design.
The Draken prototype lifts off
The Draken's prototype lifts off to its maiden flight.
The air intakes which were placed at the front of the forward delta wing forming the characteristic “wide shoulder”, which let the Draken become an icon of jet aircraft design.
The armament of the Draken as an interceptor consisted mostly of air-to-air missiles carried on four, later six, hardpoints. These were mostly AIM-9 Sidewinders, or alternatively the swedish license-built RB27 and RB28, which had been based on the AIM-4 Falcon. Due to its high rate of climb and its excellent dogfighting abilities, the Draken was predestined to be an interceptor and was almost exclusively used in that role. Swedes and Finns used it to intercept high-flying soviet reconnaissance planes, even though it never came to any actual use of arms.

Draken is pulled out of a rock shelter
Some of the Drakens were hidden in shelters in the mountains. These were build near long straight roads, which could be used as runways.
The rear section of the Draken was prolonged for the so-called “Adam lang” version (adam for a, lang means long) to house a stronger afterburner. This version also had an additional tail landing gear, which allowed landings with a high level of attack to shorten the landing distance.
The Trainer-version SK35 was modified from the early Drakens with shorter rear section and could not carry any external arms, except for two fuel tanks under the belly. The reconnaissance version S35 had a modified nose and also didn’t carry weapons.
The definitive and most widespread version of the Draken was the J35F of 1965 with modified armament, improved avionics and a strut-free canopy for improved view.
These machines also featured a FLIR sensor unit under the nose as guidance system for the RB27/28 missiles in swedish and finnish service.
Two Drakens breaking to the left

A pair of swedish Drakens showing off
the characteristic "broad shoulder"

Due to the restrictive export policy of the swedish government, the Draken was only allowed to be sold to countries that had no totalitarian or despotic government, which narrowed down the potential customers considerably, since most countries that didn’t fall under that, were either supplied by the NATO or the Soviets at the time. Only export customers were the neighbor countries Finland and Denmark as well as Austria. Austria bought 24 modified used J35Fs under the new designation J35Ö.
The danish Drakens were refitted to allow ground attacks: The danish reconnaissance Drakens were capable of carrying armament and the Danes were the only to operate a Draken two-seater with long rear section and ground attack capability including the ability to use the AGM-12 Bullpup missile.
The Danes were nevertheless the first to retire their Drakens in 1993 to replace them with F-16 Falcons. Sweden converted to Saab Gripens in 1999 and Finland in 2000 to F-18 Hornets. The Austrians kept their Drakens for five more years, retiring them in 2005 to be replaced by Eurofighter Typhoons.
A Draken's shape is mirrored in a water pool
Draken in the National Army Museum of Vienna
wingspan: 9.42m
length: 15.34m
height: 3.89m
empty weight: 7865kg
max loaded weight: 11400kg
maximum speed: 2120km/h (Mach 2+)
range: 3250km (with 2 drop tanks)
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