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Saab 29 Tunnan

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The Saab 29, popularly called Flygande tunnan ("the flying barrel"), was a Swedish fighter designed and manufactured by Saab in the 1950s. It was Sweden's second turbojet-powered combat aircraft, the first being the Saab 21R. Despite its rotund appearance, the J 29 was fast and agile, serving effectively in both fighter and fighter-bomber roles into the 1970s.

Design and development

In the aftermath of the Second World War, it was decided that Sweden needed a strong air defense built around the newly developed jet propulsion technology.[citation needed] Project "JxR" began in the final months of 1945 with two proposals from the SAAB design team led by Lars Brising. The first, codenamed R101, was a cigar-shaped aircraft somewhat similar to the American P-80 Shooting Star. The winning design however was the "barrel" design, codenamed R1001, which proved to be both faster and more agile.

The original R1001 was designed around a mostly straight wing, but after the Swedish engineers had obtained some German research data on swept-wing designs, the prototype was altered to incorporate a 25 degree sweep, first tested on a modified Saab Safir (designated Saab 201). Where and how the data for this wing design was obtained is still a bit of a mystery since all research papers were supposed to have ended up in Russian or American hands.[citation needed] (It's possible that the data was delivered by Finland in operation Stella Polaris where Finns rescued their accumulated military intel from falling into Soviet hands as part of the aftermath of WW2.) The SAAB 29 prototype flew for the first time on 1 September 1948. It was a small, chubby aircraft with a single central air intake, a bubble cockpit and a very thin swept-back wing. The test pilot was an Englishman, Robert A. "Bob" Moore, who went on to become the first managing director of Saab GB Ltd, UK, set up in 1960.

Moore described the aircraft as "on the ground an ugly duckling – in the air, a swift." Because of its rotund appearance, The Saab J 29 was quickly nicknamed "Flygande Tunnan" ("The Flying Barrel"). A total of 661 Tunnans were built from 1950 to 1956, making it the largest production run for any SAAB aircraft.

Operational history

Saab Tunnan at Linköping, on the occasion of SAAB's Diamond Jubilee, in 1997

The J 29 was one of the first production fighters with a swept-back wing. It was fast and agile. The Tunnan set the world speed record on a 500 km (310 mile) closed circuit in 1954[1] at 977 km/h (607.05 mph). Two S 29C (reconnaissance variant) additionally set an international speed record of 900.6 km/h (559.4 mph) over a 1,000 km (621 mile) closed-circuit course in 1955.[1] In the 1950s, the Swedish Air Force, Flygvapnet, primarily using the J 29, was ranked as the fourth most powerful air force in the world.

The crash record in early service was poor, mainly due to the inexperience with swept-winged aircraft. The fighter version was retired from active service in 1965, but some aircraft were used for target towing up to 1974. The last official military flight was completed in August 1976 at the 50th anniversary air show of the Swedish Air Force.

A total of 30 Tunnans were sold to Austria in 1961 where they remained in service until 1972.

Tunnan's African war service

The Tunnan was the first and only Swedish jet aircraft to fight in combat. In 1961, five J 29Bs were stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a UN peacekeeping mission (ONUC), organized as the F 22 Wing of the Swedish Air Force. It was reinforced by four J 29B and two S 29C (the photo reconnaissance version) in 1962. Most of the missions involved attacking ground targets with internal cannons as well as unguided rockets. No aircraft were lost in action despite large amounts of AAA. Consensus of the crews and foreign observers was that the Tunnan's capabilities were exceptional.[2][3] (Their secessionist adversaries used a few Fouga Magisters and other aircraft with relatively poor air combat capabilities.) The only aircraft lost was by a high-ranking officer, who made a trial-run and crashed during an aborted takeoff. When ONUC was terminated in 1964, some of the Swedish aircraft were destroyed at their base, since they were no longer needed at home and the cost of taking them all back was deemed excessive.


File:Saab 29 Tunnan.jpg
Saab S 29C preserved in an aviation museum
J 29
Four prototypes built in 1949–1950.
J 29A
Fighter, 224 built from 1951 to 1954; later series had wing-mounted dive brakes moved to the fuselage, ahead of the main landing gear doors.
J 29B
Fighter, 332 built 1953–1955; featured 50% larger fuel capacity and underwing hardpoints to carry bombs, rockets and drop-tanks.
A 29B
Same aircraft as the J 29B, but different use.
S 29C
Reconnaissance ("S" was derived from Spaning; either scouting or reconnaissance in Swedish), 76 built from 1954 through 1956; five cameras mounted in a modified nose (no armament was carried). This variant primarily operated at low level and was differentiated by having dark brown and dark green camouflage on the topsides wherein other variants were unpainted.
J 29D
Single prototype to test Ghost RM2A turbojet with 27.5 kN (2,800 kgp / 6,175 lbf) afterburning thrust; project abandoned in 1961.
J 29E
Fighter, 29 built in 1955; incorporated a "dog-tooth" instead of wing slats.
J 29F
Fighter, 308 aircraft converted from available stocks from 1954 to 1956; featured the afterburning Ghost and dog-tooth wing; all remaining aircraft were further modified in 1963 to carry a pair of US-designed AIM-9B Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles, built by SAAB under license as the "Rb 24."


Template:Country data United Nations ONUC


Specifications (Saab J 29F Tunnan)

Data from The Great Book of Fighters[4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 11.0 m (36 ft 1 in)
  • Wingspan: 10.23 m (33 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 3.75 m (12 ft 4 in)
  • Wing area: 24.15 m² (260.0 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 4,845 kg (10,680 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 8,375 kg (18,465 lb)
  • Powerplant:Volvo Aero RM2B turbojet, 6,070 lbf (27 kN)



  • 4x Hispano Mark V 20 mm cannons
  • 75 mm (3 in) unguided rockets
  • Rb 24 air-to-air missiles
  • 145 mm (5.8 in) anti-armor rockets, 150 mm (6 in) HE (high-explosive) rockets, 180 mm (7.2 in) HE antiship rockets

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Designation sequence

Related lists



  1. 1.0 1.1 "General Aviation World Records: Saab J 29." Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). Retrieved: 18 February 2009.
  2. J 29 - SAAB 29 ”Flygande tunnan” (1951-1976)
  3. J 29 Tunnan
  4. Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. The Great Book of Fighters. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-1194-3.


  • Berns, Lennart and Robin Lindholm. "Saab J 29 Tunnan". International Air Power Review, Volume 13 / 2004, pp. 152–173.
  • Erichs, Rolph et al. The Saab-Scania Story. Stockholm: Streiffert & Co., 1988. ISBN 91-7886-014-8.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Saab J 29." Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • This Happens in the Swedish Air Force (brochure). Stockholm: Information Department of the Air Staff, Flygstabens informationsavdelning, Swedish Air Force, 1983.
  • Widfeldt, Bo. The Saab J 29. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1966.
  • Winchester, Jim. "Saab J 29". Military Aircraft of the Cold War (The Aviation Factfile). Rochester, Kent, UK: The Grange plc., 2006. ISBN 1-84013-929-7.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

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bg:Сааб 29 cs:Saab 29 Tunnan de:Saab 29 es:Saab 29 Tunnan fr:Saab J 29 Tunnan hr:Saab 29 Tunnan it:Saab 29 Tunnan hu:Saab 29 Tunnan ms:Saab 29 Tunnan ja:サーブ 29 トゥンナン no:Saab 29 Tunnan pl:Saab J29 Tunnan pt:Saab Tunnan ru:Saab 29 Tunnan sr:САБ 29 Тунан fi:Saab 29 Tunnan sv:Saab 29 Tunnan

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