Bodo Air Show 2012

 

Bodo Air Show 2012

I have to admit it. Probably the last thing I expected was a AJS 37 Viggen from Leatherneck. DCS Fans have been clamoring for a Naval Fighter, like the upcoming DCS:F/A-18C Hornet( Which may not be TOO far off.) and of course, Leatherneck’s F-14A/B Tomcat (Which may be farther away than we’ed all like.), with all the excitement and challenges that Naval Aviation engenders in the world of the ‘hard core simmers’, like us.  Needless to say, I was pretty surprised when I heard the news, which by the way, I initially regarded as somebody’s idea of a joke, but then I went to the Leatherneck portion of the ED Forum, and what I read did more than suggest , that there was indeed a Viggen module, under development, though a lot of details are still under wraps but that’s ok. Patience. Better done right, than half-assed, right guy’s? Guys?

“…even though Draken’s double-delta, winged airframe represented the very cutting edge, studies for it’s successor, actually began two years before it’s first flight.”

Predictably, this news got me to thinking about everything I knew about it. The most obvious feature that it had was a single engine canard configuration, but I had to dig deep to fill more than a few blanks. The Saab AJS 37 Viggen variant that we’re getting, courtesy of Leatherneck, was born of a requirement by the Swedish government for a new multi-role fighter platform to replace two existing systems, the Saab 32 Lansen, transonic strike fighter and the Saab 35 Draken , which for the benefit of any “newbies”, was the Swedish Air Force’s first supersonic fighter, no small feat for first timers by any measure. Oddly enough, even though Draken’s double-delta winged airframe represented, the very cutting edge, studies for it’s successor, actually began two years before it’s first  flight. Put that one in the ‘strange but true’, category.

“…capability for using roads and highways as runways during rapid response, for which the Swedes and the Swiss are known today, was an absolute must.”

It was pretty much decided at the beginning, that the new plane needed to replace two platforms, which will always present unique challenges in terms of cost and complexity. The capability for using roads and highways as runways during rapid response, for which the swedes and the Swiss are known today, was an absolute must. The really hard part is incorporating the various existing technologies into as compact a package as possible,  and put in as much capability as possible, as cheaply as possible , and while a number of configurations were evaluated, including twin and single layouts, a single engine canard design, was chosen as it offered characteristics more suitable for meeting the STOL requirements because canards offered lift at opposite ends of the aircraft, and because both surfaces generate lift, no tail download is required. Note* Unlike the canard designs of today, like the Typhoon, Rafale, and Gripen, canards were utilized to provide additional lift, but no agility enhancement.

Saab engineers considered a number of powerplants from from various jet engine manufacturers, they decided to mitigate risk as much as possible and selected a licence-built version of the Pratt & Whitney JT8D, with for the exception of an added afterburner, is essentially the same engine that powers MD-80s, B727 & 37s(1st gen,). All those planes besides being airliners had one other thing in common. They needed thrust reversers, to reduce braking distance and so did Viggen and the U.S. built P&W engine had all the needed actuators to make it all work. Built by Volvo’s Flygmotor division under licence, the Volvo RM8A, was the engine of choice. Developing approx. 16,000 lbs/ 72kN dry and 28,100 lbs./125kN wet. of thrust .

“…the airplane handled quite easily.”

 

First flight of the first of seven test articles, flown by Saab Chief Test Pilot Erik Dahlstrom, was on the 8th of February, 1967 and lasted just 43 min. , but the “airplane handled quite easily”, he was quoted as saying  to a Flight International published shortly there after. Each of the seven prototypes were assigned a different role, and tested and evaluated accordingly and later in 1967, a contract was awarded for 175 Viggens. In 1968, work began on a recon variant designated SF 37, it featured the chiseled nose typical of its mission type, was designed and equipped with the latest sensors and had the ability to carry two recce pods on either side of the fuselage. There were actually two sub-variants of this aircraft; one for maritime recon and one tactical. There were other variants that quickly follow including a trainer version SK 37, with  stepped twin canopies, allowing the instructor to be seated above and behind the student; the basic premise being like other trainer cockpit layouts but with separate and uniquely shaped transparencies. The prime variant was delivered in 1971 , entering full operational capability in 1977 as the AJ 37 as a point defense fighter, with newer- more capable variants, becoming available between 1979 and 1990, which time there were numerous upgrades, including a greatly enhanced ground attack ability.

 

“..one has to keep pushing that envelope and not stand on their laurels..”

During the period between 1979 and 1990, Saab converted 48 AJ 37s, 25 SF 37s, and 25 SH 37s to AJS 37s, which are the focal point of this feature. Sadly, military secrets and advantage are fleeting, if one wants to maintain an edge, one has to keep pushing that envelope, and not stand on their laurels and by 2001 , many Viggens were being replaced and by the JAS 39 Gripen till only one wing (F-21) remained, and even though the remaining AJS 37 continued to receive modest upgrades, Viggen was finally retired in 2006 and while the type no longer remains in service, because of the efforts of the folks at Leatherneck Simulations, we will get to experience this ‘Cold War’ classic. I’m sure they’ll be able to come up with a maritime mission or two. just maybe not so ‘naval’ as ‘anti-naval’ ops in this case. I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda ‘chomping at the bit’ about this one too.

Leatherneck’s trailer and release of all those screenshots, tell me it may be close…

Since I first wrote this article, there didn’t seem to be much interest. Probably in part at least because many, were focused towards F-14A/B, and while some may still be, I for one am delighted. This in no way means I’m any less enthused about the Tomcat, this takes off the edge of waiting. Instead , it presents yet another opportunity to learn. I don’t spend a lot of time worry about what’s in the pipe down the road, but rather what’s imminent. Leatherneck’s trailer  and release of all those screenshots tell me just how close it may be, and I’m feeling it. Now, where is my wallet?

 

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