A brief history of the Saab J-29, Sweden's first fighter jet

By Willie Bodenstein


Photo © Gnolam / commons.wikimedia.org

Designed and manufactured by Saab in the 1940s the Saab 29 was the first Swedish fighter as well as the first Western European fighter to be produced with a swept wing. Despite its rotund appearance the J 29 was a surprisingly agile and fast aircraft for its era.

The first prototype successfully completed its hour-long maiden flight on 1 September 1948 with an Englishman, S/L Robert A. 'Bob' Moore at the controls. Moore described the aircraft as being: "on the ground an ugly duckling - in the air, a swift." In 1960 Moore became the first managing director of Saab GB Ltd, UK.

Production of the type commenced soon after with the first operational deliveries starting in May 1951.

The Tunnan was produced in five principal variants, these being the J 29A (the first model to enter service), J 29B and J 29E for the fighter mission, the S 29C for the reconnaissance mission, and the afterburner-equipped J 29F fighter, which was the final variant. From 1950 to 1956, at which point manufacturing was terminated, a total of 661 Tunnans were completed, making it the largest production run for any Saab aircraft.

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