Tuesday, September 24

Review: Squadron/Signal’s SAAB 37 Viggen “Walk Around”

From any angle one of the coolest airplanes ever devised – by of all people those “conservative” Swedish hey!? Well the SAAB Viggen (or Thunderbolt) is the subject of a highly anticipated new model from Tarangus and I think that a lot of modellers out there will need some reference material (the regular Swedish mags I have are no good) – anyway let’s look at the new “Walkaround” book from Squadron/Signal Publications…

SAAB 37 VIGGEN Walk Around
by Squadron/ Signal Publications
Author: Mikhail Putnikov
80 pages.
Landscape A4
196 photographs + colour profiles + line drawings.
Available from Squadron Directly

As far as it goes with finding decent resources for post WWII aircraft there are two options – the “inters-nets” or books – and when it comes to the likeable double delta design from SAAB in Sweden there has been scant on offer for both. Having a look around there really isn’t much in the way of quality reference for this bird. With the new kit from Tarangus coming out in 48th scale well Squadron couldn’t have picked a better time to come out with this could they?

This is a landscape softcover (there is a hardcover option as well) in A4 with eighty pages of a fair bit of text, 196 colour and black and white photos, several colour side on profiles and line drawings of not just the whole aircraft in scale but smaller sections like the cockpit layouts and weapons options.
The pages on my softcover book are flexible and glossy and the pictures and writing are quite complimentary. All of the photography here is in focus, not too dark and from a pretty good angle as to expose exactly what he text accompanying it is about. You need not use too much imagination to know what is in the frame and what it does. There are as I understand here several photos published for the first time. You can see a lot of effort has going into getting this particular title right - and I will start with the writing.

Normally I don’t really notice much of the writing in these walk around books – as their primary function seems to be about the pictures. The text is often just to see the scene. Credit then must go to the author of this book Mr Mikhail Putnikov, who has come out with some very interesting passages that are informative and interesting. He takes us through the history of this aircraft’s over 30 year career that spanned no wartime action but plenty of variants and surprisingly (for an aircraft known mostly for their splinter scheme) - lots of different coloured aircraft.
 I learned a lot from his pen and I was held to the book until I finished it. Not a massive undertaking I grant you at 80 pages of mostly captioned words, but it was a pleasure to read his text. When translation for parts or variants are needed or even just hinted at they are provided as well. Now let’s take you through the chapters a little..

Firstly the prototype silver aircraft are explored. The introduction explores some of the concept of the double delta design and the STOL capabilities it was designed for. It is amazing to see these first prototypes were launched in 1965 – This jet for me looked 70’s right out off the blueprints.
Speaking of drawings, there are several 72nd scale line drawings of all of the variants in profile in the book with scale next to them and a double page spread of the Viggen in a larger scale from front on, profile and from underneath and top down. Again there is a ruler here but it might have been nice to have some maybe some 48th scale plans so you can tell other people where a model got it “drastically wrong”

There are also text, a photo and line drawings with a key and numbers to describe the different aspects of several Viggen cockpits (Instrument panels & side consoles). The AJS 37, the two seat SK37E and the JA 37C are all here in detail. These are again filled with pictures but line drawings of the throttles, ejector seats and all of the other main sub-assemblies in the rest of the aircraft like landing gear. The drawings here are right on as they are based on some of the original Saab technical manuals. Anyone who has searched for accurate line drawings knows just how hard they are to come by if there is any such thing!
We go from the first production variant – the AJ37 which had the familiar hump on the spine which set it aside from the prototypes. The weapons load out set this aside as well. Because until the year 2000 this attack fighter was the prime ground attack variant for the Swedish air force.

The two seat “Skol” trainer was soon developed to get potential pilots up to speed. There are several pictures of both of the cockpits and their particulars, also of some assemblies like the engine and exhaust/ reverse thrust device and electronic warfare fairings on the wings. Several shots of the two seater in flight show that even this humpback like configuration was a good looker.
Viggen was designed as a multirole combat aircraft capable of performing fighter, strike and reconnaissance duties, it is the two versions of the photo-reconnaissance version often called the “Spannings” (surveillance) aircraft - that are highlighted in the next section of the book. There are several shots of many different kites as well as the pods they carry with detailed descriptions of their abilities and contents. The different nose is one of the distinguishing characteristics and you can see it clearly here.

The last in the series was the second generation of Viggen the “Jakt” JA 37 – this features and all new gun, engine and radar layout and thankfully all are featured in this part of the book, with helpful text again explaining things as well as some great pictures of the aircraft in flight and their bases – which were a large part of the plans for this STOL aircraft in a cold war environment between two superpowers.
The last Viggen flight in Swedish military service was in June 2007, and lastly in the book there are some excellent schemes of this aircraft that show that it was far from just a splinter or grey camo to choose from when you get your Tarangus kit! What a beautiful aircraft…

There aren’t many books about the Viggen out there – and I suppose this book will dissuade a few others from trying. The Saab 37 is a great subject for modellers and I think that this will be one of their “Go to” books. Viggen & aviation fans will love it to.

This is a step above the usual “Walk Around“ series if you ask me – an excellent book.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Squadron/Signal for sending this book for us to read and review