After the beginning of the jet era, Sweden saw the need for a new interceptor capable of stopping bombers at high altitudes and of successfully engaging other fighters as well. Thus, the Swedish Defence Material Administration issued a request, and Saab began work on the jet in 1949.
Unique to Sweden, one requirement for the new aircraft was that it should be capable of operating from public roads as wartime airbases. Another was that refueling and rearming be feasibly carried out under ten minutes by conscripts with little training.
The Draken was designed with a double-delta configuration: its wings were in an 80° sweep at the root with winglets jutting at 60° at the tip. This allowed good high-speed performance combined with much a better slow-speed performance. Because such a configuration was new at the time, it warranted the creation of the only sub-scale test aircraft built by Sweden: the Saab 210 Lilldraken. The concept was successful, as the Draken, although not conceived for dogfights, was yet a capable fighter by its quick turn speed.
The first Draken prototype flew in October 1955. Since then, it would be built to 651 units, replacing the earlier Saab J-29 Tunnan and Saab 32 Lansen. It served not only in the Swedish Air Force, but also in the Austrian Air Force, the Finnish Air Force, and in the Royal Danish Air Force. Austria was the last to retire the aircraft in 2005. The United States also owns six Drakens formerly operated by Denmark through the National Test Pilot School, and several still fly in civilian service.
The Draken was the first fully supersonic aircraft to be deployed in Western Europe. The second prototype, equipped with an afterburner, unintentionally broke the sound barrier on its first flight while climbing.
Max. takeoff weight: 16,000 kg (35,273 lb)
Maximum speed: Mach 2.2
Range: 3,250 km (2,020 mi) with external drop tanks
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