It was also the aircraft that brought Saab into the electronics age. The Saab 32 was equipped with surveillance radar, navigation radar and radar elevation gauges.
The initial discussions on what would become the Saab 32 Lansen were conducted as early as 1946. The idea was to develop an attack plane to replace the Saab 18. The design team was able to utilise the experience gained from working with the Saab 29 Tunnan. The lead designer and project manager was Artur Bråsjö.
The new plane was heavier and more powerful than the Tunnan. The wing’s sweep angle was now 35 degrees, compared to the Tunnan’s 25 degrees. The maximum speed was about six percent higher. Although a fully Swedish engine from STAL in Finspång was originally planned, the choice ultimately fell to the Avon 100 from English Rolls-Royce, built under licence i Trollhättan with the designation RM5.
This time as well, Saab produced a demonstrator, the Saab 202, in the form of a Saab 91 Safir with the Lansen’s tapered-wing planform to test low speed properties.
The Lansen’s maiden flight was on 3 November 1952. The test flight was conducted by Saab’s chief test pilot, Bengt Olow, and was completed without mishap. One year later, on 26 October 1953, the Lansen broke the sound barrier as the first Swedish-built plane to accomplish this feat.
From the latter part of the 1950s until the end of the 1970s, the Lansen was an important component of the Swedish air defence. With its many exercises, the plane was a familiar sight to many Swedes.
The attack version was an important cog in the Swedish defence against invasion. This version was used in a rapid deployment squadron nicknamed the “ÖB:s klubba” (Commander’s Club) because it could be deployed by order of the Supreme Commander. Sweden had decided to maintain control of the airspace over the Baltic Sea.
The Lansen was equipped with radar and the crew consisted of a pilot and a navigator. Using the plane’s radar, the navigator could localise targets and handle navigation tasks. But the radar was only used in the final phase. Missions were carried out as quietly and discretely as possible.
As an attack plane, the Lansen was equipped with an innovative and highly secret weapon, namely the world’s first air-to-sea missile, the Swedish-developed Robot 04, which was to stop troop ships in the event of an invasion. With its radar, the missile was target-seeking and could be fired at a distance of 15 kilometres, regardless of weather conditions. It was capable of cleaving a warship in two.
Robot 04 was the seed for continued missile development, not the least at Saab. In collaboration with Bofors, Saab produced the navy’s Robot 15 (RB 15) missile, which was delivered in 1984.