Andreas PersboThe Blue and Yellow Bomb (Part 3)

Yesterday, I attended a meeting with the International Law Association in Brighton, and the Swedish nuclear programme was raised again. It is interesting that so much international attention has been given recently to what, essentially, is a but a side note in the broader Cold War narrative. Perhaps it’s because Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Minister, reportedly likes to talk about it at meetings. Or perhaps it’s because Jeffrey has given me leeway to write about arcane and, for the most of you, uninteresting topics?

A while back, a friend from a Swedish ministry also asked my why I had not, in my previous posts on the Swedish programme, had not mentioned the Swedish delivery vehicle, SAAB project 1300, or the A36 tactical bomber.

I’m an aviation enthusiast. My father was, for many years, an employee of the Swedish Fortifications Administration. I spent a fair share of my childhood around air-force bases, and got familiar from an early age with the wonderful machines that SAAB has produced over the years. Of course, the SAAB J-35 Draken (‘Kite” or “Dragon’) is a favorite, and so are the JA-37 Viggen (‘Thunderbolt’) and the JA-39 Gripen (‘Griffin’).

Some of you know that I also used to have a glider certificate. I’m not sure if that makes my a lapsed pilot. But my father once managed to get a friend of his to let me fly the JA-37 simulator at the F13 flotilla for one hour. As this counts as experience, I was allowed to log this as flight time in my logbook (I did manage to land the fighter safely. My father, however, crashed and burned).

The Swedish Nuclear Bomber

So I decided to find out more about the A36 bomber. This was a single seat, single engine, delta-wing design. The company planned to use the RR Olympus engine, used in the Vulcan and later used in the Concorde, to give the plane some speed. It was, after all, only supposed to make a quick dash over the Baltic, hit the Soviet embarkation ports, and then make a fast escape back to Sweden.

The aircraft was designed to carry one free-fall nuclear weapon (carried in an internal bay). The weight of the weapon was given as no more than 800 kilograms (or 1760 lb.). Some sources puts the weight of the payload to 600 kilograms (or 1320 lb.). The internal bay was only put into design due to concerns of accidental detonations caused by high air friction.

This was a fast plane, designed to hit Mach 2.2 at high altitudes and at least Mach 1.2 at lower runs. Urban Fredriksson, a Swedish X-Plane enthusiast, has modeled the aircraft and tried it out in the simulator. According to him, the plane “flies better than OK and very close in speed and range to what it should be and it has to be landed very nose high in the manner typical of deltas.” According to one of the designers of the aircraft, the main problem the SAAB engineers faced was the shape of the canopy, which had to be “narrow and pointy” to be feasible.

The project was submitted in 1952 but was cancelled in 1957, to allow for more resources to go into the JA-37 project.

Effects testing

In 1956 and 1957, the Swedish military conducted a number of massive conventional explosions for research purposes at Nausta in Northern Sweden. The first test serious was given the code-name ‘Sirius” and involved three benyl charges (633, 6,040 and 61,000 kilograms). The military wanted to study intense pressures, and were, for some reason, also interested in the height of the mushroom cloud. According to some sources, they noted heights of between 350 and 1,020 meters.

The second series, code-named ‘Vega’, involved two benyl charges (5,000 and 36,000 kilograms). These tests aimed to explore weapons effects, and the military had therefore deployed a number of vehicles, airframes and other materials at the site.

More images from the test series are available here.

I am aware that there might be a number of new publications on the programme coming out in English sometime in the future. I listed a number of primary sources in post here but for some reason all the links are broken. They must have been moved to another part of the site.

However, if you Google, you shall find.