Saab is claiming to be the first aircraft manufacturer to take responsibility for its product from cradle to grave, after the Austrian air force’s last J35 Draken fighters were returned to the Swedish company to be “dismantled environmentally”.
Austria, which ordered 24 J35OEs 18 years ago, was the last country to operate the distinctive Draken. The last eight have now been transported back to Sweden, travelling by truck from Zeltweg airbase through Germany to Ljungbyhed.
At Ljungbyhed, Saab Aerotech will remove the avionics and reclaim the precious metals, after which the airframes will be scrapped by Stena Metall in Halmstad. “We will ensure that the aircraft and its materials are dismantled environmentally,” says Christer Dhalberg, senior vice-president marketing at Saab Aerosystems.
The aircraft are being dismantled in Sweden because Saab has the knowledge and experience of how the materials should be handled and phased out, says Dhalberg.
The Saab 35 Draken (Dragon) first flew on 15 October 1955, and was Sweden’s first supersonic fighter. Powered by a Swedish-built version of the Rolls-Royce Avon afterburning turbojet, the double-delta Draken was capable of Mach 2.
Several versions of the Draken were developed and built for the Swedish air force, culminating in the J35F armed with Swedish-built Hughes Falcon air-to-air missiles.
Denmark became the first export customer in 1968, eventually buying 51 J35XD Drakens in strike, reconnaissance and two-seat trainer versions. Finland selected the J35XS in 1970, ultimately acquiring 48 new and used Drakens. Austria completed the export list, buying 24 refurbished ex-Swedish air force J35Ds in 1972.
There are several Drakens on the civil register, including six ex-Danish aircraft - four of them two-seaters - flown by the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, California.