Saab 29 Tunnan: The marvelous “flying barrel”

Saab 29 Tunnan: The marvelous “flying barrel”

Exploring the Saab 29 Tunnan, this article breaks down its technical characteristics, history and legacy in military aviation.

History and innovative design of the Saab 29 Tunnan in aviation

The Saab 29 Tunnan, also known as “The Flying Barrel,” is distinguished in the history of military aviation for its unique design and operational capabilities. Produced by the renowned Swedish firm Saab, the Tunnan marked a milestone by being the first Western European fighter with a swept wing after World War II, a feature it shared with the German pioneer Messerschmitt Me 262. Despite its robust appearance and barrel-shaped fuselage, this aircraft was not just an aesthetic curiosity but a highly functional and advanced fighter aircraft for its time.

Initially developed under the R 1001 concept, the Tunnan underwent a significant change in design, going from straight to 25-degree swept wings, thanks to the influence of German research. This design adjustment was intended to reduce aerodynamic drag and improve efficiency at speeds close to the sound barrier.

Additionally, Tunnan’s wing design was notably thin, a feature that forced engineers to integrate the landing gear into the fuselage rather than into the wings, as was common on other jet fighters of the era.

In terms of propulsion, the Tunnan began with a focus on the de Havilland Goblin turbojet engine, but this was replaced by the more powerful de Havilland Ghost, which fit snugly into the tubular fuselage and provided 5,000 pounds of thrust.

This allowed the Tunnan to reach impressive speeds of up to 650 miles per hour. Its first flight, carried out by Bob Moore, the future first general manager of Saab GB UK, marked the beginning of a series of successful tests that would lead to the Tunnan becoming an integral part of the Swedish air forces.

Tests, performance and legacy of the Saab 29 Tunnan in combat

Saab 29 Tunnan: The marvelous “flying barrel”
Saab 29 Tunnan: The marvelous “flying barrel.”

The Saab 29 Tunnan testing process included the construction of four prototypes, with the first two models initially devoid of armament. The third prototype was a more advanced version, equipped with four 20 mm cannons, significantly improving its offensive capacity. Tests showed that the Tunnan was faster than expected, leading to its mass production and subsequent incorporation into the Swedish Air Force in 1950.

The Tunnan was not only an operationally efficient aircraft but also excelled in the realm of speed records. In 1954, he set a 500 km closed-course speed record; the following year, he broke another international 1,000-km closed-course speed record. These feats not only demonstrated the technical superiority of the Tunnan but also reaffirmed Saab’s ability to design and build world-class fighter aircraft.

The Saab 29 Tunnan ‘s service extended beyond the Swedish Air Force. It was also adopted by the  Austrian Air Force and participated in operations under the  United Nations mandate.

Despite its retirement in 1974, the Tunnan remains an important landmark in military aviation history, with some examples preserved in museums across Europe, attesting to its impact and legacy on the air defense industry.

Impact and evaluation of the  Saab 29 Tunnan  on contemporary aviation

The Saab 29 Tunnan represents a conjunction of innovation, design and functionality in the history of combat aviation. Despite its unusual appearance, this aircraft pioneered several aspects of aeronautical design and technology. Its influence extends to the present day as an example of how innovative solutions can overcome physical limitations and engineering challenges.

Saab 29 Tunnan: The marvelous “flying barrel”
Saab 29 Tunnan: The marvelous “flying barrel.”

The relevance of the Tunnan in the historical and technical context should not be underestimated. Although initially perceived as unconventional, its swept wing and barrel-shaped fuselage design proved to be significant advances in aerodynamics and high-speed flight efficiency. Additionally, its de Havilland Ghost engine established a precedent in the selection and adaptation of jet engines to maximize performance and combat effectiveness.

In short, the  Saab 29 Tunnan is not just a chapter in the history of  Saab or Swedish military aviation but a fundamental pillar in developing fighter aircraft technology. His legacy lives on not only as a relic in museums but as a testament to innovative engineering and strategic vision in the field of air defense. In conclusion, the Tunnan is not only a work of art in fighter aircraft but also a model of technical excellence and strategic design.

What innovation did the Saab 29 Tunnan bring in aircraft design?

The Saab 29 Tunnan, known as “The Flying Barrel,” was innovative for its swept wing design, a first in post-World War II Western Europe. This design reduced aerodynamic drag, improving efficiency at high speeds.


How did the de Havilland Ghost engine affect the Saab 29 Tunnan?

Incorporating the de Havilland Ghost engine in the Saab 29 Tunnan was crucial. It provided 5,000 pounds of thrust, allowing speeds of up to 650 miles per hour, significantly improving its performance and operational capabilities.

What was the role of the Saab 29 Tunnan in the Swedish Air Force?

The Saab 29 Tunnan has been integral in the Swedish Air Force since 1950. It was noted for its speed and operational efficiency, setting speed records and serving effectively in multiple operations.

What relevance does the Saab 29 Tunnan have in the history of aviation?

The Saab 29 Tunnan is a milestone in military aviation, recognized for its unique design and advanced technology. Its legacy is in the air defense industry, with several examples preserved in European museums.

How did the design of the Saab 29 Tunnan influence contemporary aviation?

The swept wing design and barrel-shaped fuselage of the Saab 29 Tunnan were significant advances in aerodynamics and flight efficiency. He established precedents in the adaptation of jet engines and in technological innovation in combat aircraft.