Saab 29 Tunnan

The About this sound Saab 29 (help·info), colloquially called Flygande tunnan (English: "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.

Saab 29 Tunnan
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Saab Group
Origin Sweden
Country Name Origin Year
Sweden 1948
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Sweden 1950 1978 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Saab Group 1950 661 View

In the aftermath of the Second World War, it was decided that Sweden needed a strong air defence built around the newly developed jet propulsion technology. 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 Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. The winning design however was the "barrel" design, codenamed R 1001, which proved to be both faster and more agile.

The original R 1001 was designed around a mostly straight wing, but after the Swedish engineers had obtained 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). A member of the Saab engineering team had been allowed to review German aeronautical documents stored in Switzerland. These files captured by the Americans in 1945 clearly indicated delta and swept-wing designs had the effect of "reducing drag dramatically as the aircraft approached the sound barrier." 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, S/L Robert A. 'Bob' Moore, DFC and bar, 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 shape, The Saab J 29 was quickly nicknamed "Flygande Tunnan" ("The Flying Barrel") or "Tunnan" ("The Barrel") for short. While the demeaning nickname was not appreciated by SAAB, its shortform was officially adopted. Since then, Saab named the aircraft in order to avoid it happening again. A total of 661 Tunnans were built from 1950 to 1956, making it the largest production run for any Saab aircraft.

The J 29 was one of the first production fighters with a swept-back wing. It was fast and agile, and set the world speed record on a 500 km (310 mi) closed circuit in 1954[6] 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 (620 mi) closed-circuit course in 1955.

The crash record in early service was poor, mainly due to the inexperience with swept-winged aircraft and the lack of a two seat, dual control Tunnan trainer variant: this meant that Swedish fighter pilots could only be trained using two seat variants of the de Havilland Vampire (a straight-winged jet), before going solo in a Tunnan. 99 pilots were killed during military practice flights in Sweden.

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 Swedish Air Force's 50th anniversary air show.

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

Role Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer Saab
First flight 1 September 1948
Introduction 1950
Retired 1976
Status Retired
Primary users Swedish Air Force
Austrian Air Force
Produced 1950–56
Number built 661

General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 10.23 m (33 ft 7 in)
  • Wingspan: 11.0 m (36 ft 1 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: 1 × Svenska Flygmotor RM 2B turbojet, 6,070 lbf (27 kN)


  • Maximum speed: 1,060 km/h (660 mph)
  • Range: 1,100 km (685 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 15,500 m (50,850 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 32.1 m/s (6,320 ft/min)


  • 4x20mm Hispano Mark V autocannon
  • 75 mm (3 in) air-to-air 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

End notes