A total of 110 original, ground-attack optimized variant, AJ 37 were built, with the first operational squadron established in 1972 at F 7 Såtenäs.
A two-seat trainer was not initially planned since it was considered that new pilots could get enough experience with delta-winged aircraft on the SK 35 Draken trainer. Eventually, however, 18 SK 37 two-seat trainers were ordered and delivered in 1973. To make room for the second cockpit, one fuel tank and some avionics were removed. The radar was also omitted limiting the weapons load to gun pods and unguided rockets.
A total of 26 of the SH 37 maritime reconnaissance and strike variant were built in 1974, replacing the S 32C Lansen. Although fitted with radar and weaponry, the SH 37 Viggen could also undertake photographic missions with its single long-range camera, while external pods could carry a photographic day-set, a "Red Baron" IR set, an ELINT set, and AQ series ECM (made by SATT).
A further 26 of the SF 37 reconnaissance variant were also delivered to replace the S 35 Draken in 1975. These were recognizable by having an elongated nose, equipped with six cameras and a VKa 702 infrared linescanner for night reconnaissance. Also, the "Red Baron" pod, with three IR cameras was widely used, as well as an ELINT set.
The Viggen saw initial service in natural metal, later receiving an extremely elaborate disruptive camouflage scheme for the AJ/SF/SH/SK variants and the first 27 JA aircraft. The 28th JA was painted in a gray tone that turned out too close to white. All latter JA aircraft were painted in a darker light/dark gray, appropriate for a high altitude fighter.
The final Viggen production variant was the JA 37 interceptor entering service in 1980. The last of 149 JA 37s was delivered in 1990. Differences from the previous models included an improved and more powerful RM 8B engine, a new PS 46/A interception radar, new computers, HUD, ECM and some other subsystems.
Unusually for a 1970s fighter, three multi-purpose CRT display screens were fitted within the cockpit, in a system called AP-12, that also included a new model of HUD. The new radar was compatible with the Skyflash medium-range missiles, for the first time in a Swedish fighter. Two Skyflash missiles could be carried under the wings on hardpoints, as well as four Sidewinder J or L models. Another improvement was the addition of an Oerlikon KCA 30 mm cannon mounted internally, with 126 rounds of 360 g ammunition.
The structural strength was also improved, especially for the multi-sparred wings (initially Viggens had a high loss rate, with 21 aircraft lost in the early years). Various upgrades have been performed over the years, mainly to cockpit equipment, weapons and sensor fit. Between 1998 and 2000, 10 SK 37 trainers were converted to SK 37E electronic warfare trainers to replace the aging J 32E Lansen.
Swedish JA 37 Viggen fighter pilots, using the predictable patterns of Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird routine flights over the Baltic Sea, managed to achieve missile lock-on with radar on the SR-71 on numerous occasions. Despite heavy jamming from the SR-71, target illumination was maintained by feeding target location from ground-based radars to the fire-control computer in the Viggen. The most common site for the lock-on to occur was the thin stretch of international airspace between Öland and Gotland that the SR-71 used on the return flight. The Viggen is the only aircraft to this day to get an acknowledged radar lock on the SR-71.