Saab 210 The 70% Swedish Fighter

The Saab 210, affectionately known as Lill-Draken (Little Dragon), its story begins in the context of the Cold War,

In creating the Saab 35 Draken, Saab ventured into new territory by opting for a double delta wing design. This configuration was not well-understood at the time, prompting the decision to construct a specialized test aircraft to enhance the project’s safety.

This experimental plane, a scaled-down version at 70 percent of the intended size, was named the Saab 210 Lill-Draken.

The primary aim of the Saab 210 was to evaluate the aircraft’s low-speed flight characteristics and validate the initial design assumptions before progressing to full-scale production. Bengt Olow piloted its first flight on January 21, 1952.


Little Dragon

The Saab 210, affectionately known as Lill-Draken (Little Dragon), holds a cool place in aviation history, particularly in the development of jet fighters during the mid-20th century. Its story begins in the context of the Cold War, a time of rapid advancement in military aviation technology.

The Saab 210's maiden flight took place on January 21, 1952, marking a significant milestone in the Saab 35 Draken's development.
The Saab 210’s maiden flight took place on January 21, 1952, marking a significant milestone in the Saab 35 Draken’s development.

In the early 1950s, Sweden, maintaining its policy of neutrality, recognized the need for a sophisticated jet fighter that could operate in its specific geographical and climatic conditions. This led to the inception of the Saab 35 Draken, and the Saab 210 was a critical stepping stone in its development.

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The concept behind the Saab 210 was born out of necessity. During this period, the understanding of advanced aerodynamic configurations, particularly for supersonic flight, was still in its infancy. Saab engineers were exploring innovative designs, and one such design was the double delta wing configuration.

Double Delta Wing

The double delta wing, characterized by a wider chord at the wing root and a narrower chord at the wing tip, promised better performance at both high and low speeds, crucial for a fighter aircraft’s agility and supersonic capability. However, the lack of empirical data and flight experience with this design posed a significant challenge.

To mitigate the risks and gather essential data, Saab’s solution was the creation of the Saab 210, a scaled-down experimental aircraft that would serve as a testbed for the Draken’s design.

The Saab 210 is regarded as a crucial project in the history of Swedish aviation.

The Saab 210 was not merely a model; it was a fully functional aircraft, scaled to 70 percent of the size of the planned Saab 35 Draken. This approach allowed engineers to realistically test and understand how the double delta wing would perform under actual flight conditions.

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The construction of the Saab 210 was a testament to Saab’s commitment to innovation and thorough testing. The aircraft was meticulously designed to replicate as closely as possible the flight characteristics of the full-scale Draken. Although smaller, it embodied the same radical wing design and general aerodynamic profile that would later define the Draken.

On January 21, 1952, the Saab 210 took to the skies for the first time, piloted by Bengt Olow. This maiden flight marked a significant milestone not only for Saab but also for aviation design technology.

Test Flights

The flight tests conducted with the Saab 210 were crucial in proving the viability of the double delta wing. It demonstrated satisfactory performance at various speeds and altitudes, particularly focusing on low-speed handling, crucial for take-offs and landings.

The data and insights gained from the Saab 210’s tests were directly applied to the development of the Saab 35 Draken, influencing its design modifications and improvements.

The data collected from the Saab 210’s flight tests were invaluable in refining the design of the Saab 35 Draken.

It helped in understanding the aerodynamic behavior of the double delta wing, especially in transonic and supersonic flight regimes. The insights gained from these tests directly influenced modifications and improvements in the Draken’s design, contributing to its eventual success as a front-line fighter jet.

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The Saab 210’s role in the development of the Draken was not its only contribution to aviation. It also provided significant learnings in test methodologies and experimental aircraft design. The project showcased how scaled-down prototypes could be effectively used in the developmental phase of complex aircraft, a practice that has since been adopted in various forms by the aerospace industry worldwide.

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After completing its mission as a testbed, the Saab 210 continued to be of interest to aviation enthusiasts and historians. It represented a pioneering spirit and innovative approach to solving aerodynamic challenges in jet aircraft design.

The aircraft is often remembered and celebrated in Swedish aviation history and is a symbol of Saab’s legacy in aircraft design and innovation.

Power Plant

The Saab 210, was powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Adder turbojet engine. This engine has a distinct place in the history of aviation as one of the early developments in jet propulsion technology.

Its origins trace back to the late 1940s and early 1950s, emerging as a derivative of the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba, a turboprop engine. The Mamba’s core components, notably its compressor and turbine, were adapted and reconfigured to create a turbojet engine, leading to the development of the Adder.

The Armstrong Siddeley ASA.1 Adder was an early British turbojet engine developed by the Armstrong Siddeley company and first run in November 1948.
The Armstrong Siddeley ASA.1 Adder was an early British turbojet engine developed by the Armstrong Siddeley company and first run in November 1948.

The Adder was characterized by its compact size and relatively simple design, consisting of a single-stage centrifugal compressor and a single-stage turbine. This construction made it lightweight and versatile, suitable for applications beyond conventional aircraft propulsion.

Its design was a response to the growing interest in developing smaller, more efficient engines for a variety of uses, including powering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and experimental aircraft.

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Despite its innovative design, the Adder saw limited production and use. It was primarily utilized in experimental roles, particularly in target drones and UAVs, where its size and efficiency were advantageous.

The Adder’s operational history remained relatively brief, partly due to the rapid advancements in turbojet technology during that period, which soon produced more powerful and efficient engines.

The Armstrong Siddeley Adder’s significance lies in its role in the early exploration of small turbojet propulsion systems. It demonstrated the feasibility of compact jet engines and contributed to the understanding of jet propulsion at a smaller scale.

While the Adder may not have achieved widespread success or recognition, its development provided valuable insights and paved the way for future advancements in jet engine technology.