Did You Know Saab J35 Drakens Could Perform the ‘Cobra’ Maneuver?

The Swedish Cobra

Take a look at the Swedish Cobra Maneuver.

The Sukhoi Su-27 became famous all around the world for doing an aerobatic maneuver, named after the Soviet test pilot Viktor Pugachev, who performed it publicly in 1989 at the Paris Le Bourget air show: the “Pugachev’s Cobra” (or simply “Cobra”).

In a Cobra, the plane suddenly raises the nose to the veritical position (or beyond) before dropping it back to the normal flight, maintaining more or less the same altitude through the entire maneuver.

Image credit: Wiki

The Cobra, that can be somehow useful during a dogfight to suddenly slow down the speed (more or less as Maverick does in Top Gun movie), is not only performed by the Su-27 and subsequent variants: even the MiG-29 and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor are able to perform such maneuver, with the latter highly facilitated by thrust vectoring engines. Most modern planes with thrust vectoring are capable to perform an even more effective and spectacular maneuver: the Kulbit.

Actually not only modern thrust vectoring or canard control surfaces give a plane the pitch control authority required to perform the Cobra. Indeed, even the Saab J35 Draken, a fighter plane manufactured in the ’50s (and retired from active service by its last operator – Austria – in 2005) could perform the Cobra as the following video (that has been around for a few years but was revived on FB lately) shows:

The Saab 35 Draken was a Swedish interceptor developed and manufactured by SAAB (Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget) between 1955 and 1974. The aircraft featured an innovative but unproven double delta wing, which led to the creation of a sub-scale test aircraft, the Saab 210, which was produced and flown to test this previously-unexplored aerodynamic feature. According to SAAB, their first and only experimental aircraft in history (currently on display at the Air Force museum in Linköping, Sweden) “performed around 1,000 test flights over four years. The results provided valuable experience during development of the Saab 35 Draken.”

The full-scale production version of the Draken entered service with frontline squadrons of the Swedish Air Force on Mar. 8, 1960. During its career it was subject to several upgrades, the ultimate of these being the J 35J model. By the 1980s, the Swedish Drakens had largely been replaced by the more advanced Saab 37 Viggen fighter. The aircraft was eventually retired from active service by the Swedish Air Force in December 1999.

File image of a Saab Draken (Image credit: Robert Sullivan/Wiki)
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

1 Comment

  1. Actually. The russians learned the cobra by watching swedish fighters doing cobra manouvers over the baltic sea. Some of them tried to replicate it but that landed them in the water. It was not until several years later when they got a platform capable that they started showing it off.
    At ca 2.10-2.15 in the movie the Draken performs a cobra and a barrel roll in 1.5 seconds. It is completely unreal. Something modern fighters still cannot/have a hard time to match. Remember this is a fighter constructed in the 1950ies.

Comments are closed.