Lulea-Kallax AB, Sweden 
April 2005

'I can clearly remember seeing a picture of an unusual 'double-delta' aircraft on the front of an Airfix catalogue in the early 1970's and wondering what it was.
I flicked through the catalogue and discovered it was a Saab Viggen and my young mind was further impressed
to read that it could take off from motorways in Sweden, if the need arose!
 Since that first childhood encounter with Saab's powerful 'Thunderbolt', it had always been a favourite of mine
and I had been fortunate enough to witness it being displayed at the occasional UK airshow.
 However, it's rapidly approaching retirement in 2005 made me realise that I hadn't really captured enough photos of this special aircraft.
Therefore when the opportunity arose to visit the final few flying in Swedish Air Force service at their home base,
 Lulea-Kallax, Northern Sweden, I knew that it was something I had to do!  

Courtesy of one of the inaugural Ian Allan Photo Club tours, I spent several magical days just south of the Artic Circle,
as guest of F21 Norrbottens Flygflottilj of the Svenska Flygvapnet.
 The three days in Northern Sweden were organised with military efficiency, allowing us to obtain photos from different areas of the airfield.
This varied from being over 100 feet up on the outside of the new control tower, to alongside the runway, to inside hangars.
We were able to capture three of the main Viggen variants which were still in use during the final year of their operation
with the Swedish Air Force, namely the AJSF 37 (reconnaissance), AJSH 37 (attack) and the rare SK37E (electronic warfare/two-seaters).
 We also witnessed the other types based at Lulea-Kallax, Saab Gripens (the replacement for the Viggen),
Saab SK60s (2 and 4 seat variants form a liaison flight) and the single Saab 340 (Tp100C) used for transport duties

Three varied days were enjoyed with our accommodating hosts.
On day one the weather was extremely kind to us with clear and sunny conditions providing superb photo opportunities.
Seeing the Viggen on its 'home turf', with snow and pine trees providing the backdrop, will remain with me forever!
It was great stuff and worth getting slightly cold for, although Sweden had just had a fairly mild winter apparently!
One of the highlights of the day was being privileged to witness the first public roll out of a specially painted AJSF 37 Viggen
 bearing a striking blue rear fuselage with the legend 'Akktu Stakki' (Lone Wolf) and a (lone) wolf's head on the tail.
Lone Wolf is the squadron's nickname and the paint scheme looked great in the clear Scandinavian sunshine! 


The following day gradually saw more wintery conditions set in, the overcast together with sleet and snow flurries
made for challenging flying and photography!
In between watching the take-offs and landings, we were able to seek shelter in the hangars
where numerous Viggens and SK60s were protected from the elements.
Lunch was enjoyed in the base canteen accompanied by some of the final Viggen pilots,
who were glad to chat about their ageing mount.
I was lucky enough to speak with Andreas Johansson (who later delivered a Viggen to the Newark Air Musuem in the UK)
and it was clear that he would miss flying this charismatic aircraft (even with it's 'tube and valve' technology!).
After a quick visit to the base 'decoys' parked on the civilian side of the airfield,
we watched the final sortie of the day return to base in atrocious visibility. Another lasting memory. 

Our final day allowed a visit to the very interesting base museum to see further snow covered products of Saab aviation
in the form of Viggens, a Draken, a Tunnan and a Lansen.
Then just as the really heavy snow set in, it was time to set off for our homeward flight!
Being from the south of England, I was convinced that the 3 inches of snow which fell in as many hours
would mean that our flight would at least be delayed, but needn't have worried!
It was just another day in this part of the World and whilst a formation of snowploughs kept the runway clear,
our SAS MD90 got de-iced and then took off without fuss.

This had been a truly superb and memorable trip from start to finish.
The highlights were numerous: seeing the Viggen in it's homeland demonstrating that it was still a truly 'all weather' aircraft;
experiencing the climate/landscape of Northern Sweden (snow and frozen seas);
watching in awe as the Northern Lights performed (another thing I had always wanted to witness!)...Magical stuff!


Many thanks must be extended to Richard Cooper and our Swedish hosts,
in particular Stefan von Below and Louise Levan, plus all the dedicated pilots
and groundcrew who made sure the photo opportunities were plentiful and spectacular.'
..........Mark Preston.