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The Saab 37 Viggen ("Thunderbolt")[Nb 1][3] is a retired Swedish single-seat, single-engine, short-medium range combat aircraft. Development work on the type was initiated at Saab in 1952 and, following the selection of a radical delta wing configuration, the resulting aircraft performed its first flight on 8 February 1967 and entered service in 21 June 1971. The Viggen holds the distinction of being the first canard design to be produced in quantity.[4]

 As the initial AJ 37 Viggen was being introduced to service, further variants of the Viggen proceeded to complete development and enter production.[32] In 1972, the first SK 37, an operational trainer variant with a staggered second canopy for an instructor, was delivered to the Swedish Air Force.[4][33] On 21 May 1973, the first prototype of SF 37 Viggen, a tactical reconnaissance variant featuring a modified nose to accommodate seven sensors, conducted its first flight.[34]

While other variants entered production during the 1960s, Saab continued the development of the more capable all-weather interceptor version of the aircraft, the JA 37. In 1970, Sweden's air defenses had been closely inspected and it was determined that the prospective JA 37 Viggen was highly suited to the role.[27] In 1972, the Swedish government authorized the development of the fighter-interceptor variant to proceed, which was followed by several major contracts for the JA 37's further development.[29] A total of five prototypes would be produced, four of which being modified AJ 37s and one being a sole pre-production JA 37 model, to test the control systems, engine, avionics, and armaments respectively.[27] In June 1974, the first of these prototypes conducted its maiden flight; later that year, an initial order for 30 JA 37s was issued by the Swedish government.[27]

The JA 37 Viggen featured various changes from its predecessor, including revisions to the design of the airframe, the use of the more powerful RM8B powerplant, a new generation of electronics being adopted, and a revised armament configuration employed; the principle externally visible changes from most earlier variants were a taller tailfin and the underfuselage gunpack arrangement.[4][9][35] The JA 37, in addition to its principal aerial combat mission, also retained a secondary ground-attack capability, and was better suited to low-level operations.[27][36] In November 1977, the first production JA 37 Viggen conducted its maiden flight.[37] Operational trials for the new variant were conducted between January and December 1979, which resulted in the type being introduced to operational service that year.[37][38] According to Flight International, at the time of the JA 37's introduction, it was the most advanced European fighter then in service.[9]

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