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SAAB AJ-37 Viggen

by Piero De Santis


SAAB AJ-37 Viggen


Airfix 1/48 scale Viggen may be ordered online from Squadron.com




The SAAB Viggen is a heavy multi-role combat aircraft designed, produced and exclusively used by the Swedish Air Force.

Introduced in the 1960s and the 1970s in all its variants, the Viggen was designed to respond to many challenging requirements as a multi-role (attack, reconnaissance and fighter) aircraft changing only the payloads, while also possessing STOL capabilities.

Those requirements demanded a radical new design to embody all of those features: a cranked-leading-edge delta wing with shoulder mounted foreplane fitted with flaps to generate extra lift at slow speed and a thrust reverser integrated with the rear fuselage.


Whit this aerodynamic configuration, the STOL requirement was achieved, permitting the aircraft to use a number of dispersal site in the event of war, as was also in the "NATO thinking" at that time.

A "military" version of the civilian used P&W JT8D engine was developed by Volvo, adding a powerful afterburner. A double-tandem undercarriage was provided to heavy and precise landings, even on ice.

The using of a central digital computer capable of controlling all the functions including navigation, weapons and fuel, reduced the workload for the single pilot. The Viggen's radar is a long range X-band type produced by Ericsson.

The specialised variants of the Viggen are the AJ-37 for attack, the JA-37 interceptor, the SH-37 for sea surveillance, the SF-37 for photo-reconnaissance and the two-seat SK-37 for training.



Plastic Viggens


It is a pity that such a beautiful aircraft as the Viggen is not so well represented in all scales. In 1/72, we have a decent kit dedicated to the AJ/JA/SF types from Heller, but the moulds are old with raised panels. All the other kit in this scale, Airfix and Hasegawa are only a bad reproduction of the Viggen prototype. There was also a kit of the two-seat SK made by Matchbox.

In 1/144, we have a Viggen kit from Revell.

The 1980s saw the only 1/48 scale Viggen kit introduced by ESCI, with two main boxings for the AJ and the JA variants.

As ESCI went out of business in the early 1990s, those kits became a coveted "cult" item, and until last year they were very difficult and expenses to find.

Now, in common with many other ESCI moulds, the Viggen kit is being re-boxed under the Airfix label. At the same time, a nice decal sheet was put on the market from Twobobs, following the hard to find one from Flying Colours dedicated only to the double-grey camouflaged JA-37.



Airfix (ESCI) AJ-37 Viggen Kit in 1/48


I used the AJ-37 kit from ESCI as the basis for my project because I was lucky enough to find some "around the globe" over the last few years.

The kit has raised panel lines, with very poor details in areas such as the cockpits and undercarriage, and many mistakes around all the airframes.


I started by rescribing all the plastic parts before starting the assembly phases.

Specialist references books, magazines, 3-view draws and pictures are a MUST. You can find Viggen references in "World Air Power Journal" issue 13, "Air International" volume 56 issue 2, "Jets" volume 1996 issue 7, "Scale Aircraft Modelling" volume 14 issue 5, "Lotniczych" issue 16 and finally an old issue from an out-of-business model magazine named "Aerei Modellismo". This magazine was really useful with many technical drawings and a details colour table, and finally with a 3-view scale drawing of a "splinter" camouflaged aircraft.

Construction followed this sequence:


Starting from here we find the first "problem"... the nose contour shape seems to be too long for the AJ variant compared to my drawing. I obtained a better looking nose using some sandpaper. Remember to place a weight inside the nose to balance the model.


The kit parts provided for this area includes a decal instrument panel, an instrument coaming, a slick tube and an indefinable seat. Throw away those pieces and scratch build a completely new cockpit using plasticard and pieces from your spare parts store. An "oversized" control stick is also provided in the kit.

A resin detail set for the Viggen is now produced by a Czech manufacture, but it was too late for my model, and personally I preferred mine. From this resin set I used the ejection seat that is a very nice piece to reproduce this particular seat.

For the instrument panel, I assembled instruments from Reheat photo etched sheets. Remember that the instrument panel layout change between the AJ and JA types. The HUD is a photo etched modified one.

The cockpit colour is Very Light Grey (Humbrol 147) with Black instrument details. Instrument panel cover is "dirty" Black.

The seat is Very Light Grey (Humbrol 147) with headrest in Light Green (Humbrol 80) and seat cushion in Olive Drab/Dark Green (Humbrol 155 and 108). Straps are Medium Grey (Humbrol 106). The emergency handle is Black. Other details as the seat attachment points to the bulkhead are Aluminium (Humbrol 56).

Front Undercarriage

The front wheel bay part in the kit is deep enough but simple. I replaced it with a new detailed part. The undercarriage leg and wheels were replaced too with a new one.

Close up pictures of this section can be found in many walkaround articles on the Internet.

The wheel bay is Aluminium (Humbrol 56), as for the leg, with silver (Humbrol 11) details. Oil and hydraulic ducts are Black.

Main Jet Intakes

The kit parts are too long and needs to be shorted. You have also to reproduce the mobile shield part on the lower side. The intake inside colour is Aluminium (Humbrol 56). The edge of the intake is Black with a lot of peeling were the Aluminium colour came up.

Central Fuselage

The fuselage contour seams to be good, but the fitting is poor and needs a lot of cyano and epoxy putty. I positioned close the side airbrake and left open the couple under the fuselage. Here, I added the oleo actuator parts and drilled the mobile speed brake. The speed brake colour is Copper (Humbrol 54).

Wings and Foreplanes

The plastic wings were a little bit warped and there are no reference attaching pins to the fuselage. Again a big amount of dry fitting, cyano and epoxy putty also here are required. I split the flaps from the foreplanes to be positioned down. A small triangular fence was added on top of each foreplane. Under the rear section of the right wing I added a semi-circular antenna blade in Light Tan colour (Humbrol 148).

The edge of the wings and foreplanes is Black with a lot of peeling were the Aluminium colour came up.

Vertical Tail

The piece is too short on top and needs to be length with plasticard. Cyano and epoxy putty as you prefer where the piece join the fuselage. Remember that on the real aircraft the tail can be side rotate to facilitated the storage inside the mountain shelter. The edge of the tail is Black with a lot of peeling were the Aluminium colour came up. The tail fin on the AJ/SF/SH is completely different from the one on the JA/SK.


The kit parts are too "basic". I borrowed the end turbine part from the P&W included in the Italeri' F-16, together with the duct, attached to the kit afterburner part, inside I placed some small rectangular pieces of plasticard to simulate the petals. Two small fence were added to the external sides.

The reverser petals included in the kit were cut, detailed and placed in a mid-way position to let see the inside.



All the exhaust section was painted using metallic and black colours, with a lot of dry-brushing. On each side of the rear cone section I added a small circular intake.


I used the kit parts, with a lot of dry fitting test and some reshaping, most on the external two. Attention, the old ESCI kit dedicated to the AJ contains a pair of incorrectly shaped fuselage pylons. The right shaped pylons are included in the JA box.



On the central fuselage pylon there is an oval air-intake, where I added a strut in the intake.

Weapons and Fuel Tanks

I armed my AJ-37 with training-weapon configuration, so I attached the big Bofors 135mm rocket pods provided in the kit under the mid wing pylons. Those rocket pods are painted in Medium Grey (Humbrol 106) with Silver (Humbrol 11) rear section and Litght Green (Humbrol 80). Under the external wing pylons I placed a pair of AIM-9J taken form the Hasegawa weapon set, and a pair of launch rails from a Monogram's AV-8B. Launch rails are White (Humbrol 130) and the AIM-9J are Light Green (Humbrol 80). I used the two air-surface RB-05 missiles provided in the kit, and placed under the two fuselage pylons. On those missiles I replaced all the fins with new made with thin plasticard. White launch rails were scratch build and added. Also those missiles are painted Light Green (Humbrol 80) with Copper (Humbrol 54) rear section.

I write "drill" warning label with a black pen on the AIM-9J and RB-05 sides.

Under the central fuselage pylon I attached the drop tanks provided in the kit, with three new refined fins. Tanks colour is Medium Grey (Humbrol 106).

Main Undercarriage

Here the kit is crude, and scratch build wheel bay should be required. As showed in many Viggen's photos, a little help came when the aircraft is parked, with the two big doors in close position. The other section of the wheel bay can be detailed with some cabling and ducts. The undercarriage legs needs to be detailed with many oleo and hydraulic actuators. Wheels needs to be replaced with others from your spare storage.

Colour of the legs and wheels is Aluminium (Humbrol 56) with Silver (Humbrol 11) details.


In many of my ESCI Viggen boxes I found that the clear windshield part has a "line" in the middle,not on the surface but inside the plastic part, maybe a beginning of cracking. Anyway, with many thanks to a roman modeller-friend, I get a vac formed new windshield. It was not easy to place it on the kit, because the piece is very thin and the possibility to crack the joint in the next painting and decaling phases. Fortunately, at the end the result was very good. The canopy came from the kit and I added a couple of back-mirrors and the opening system. Inside colour is Black, with the external as for the camouflage pattern. A thin Light Tan (Humbrol 94) line was painted around the canopy to simulate the sealed.


Painting and Markings



It was from the beginning of this project that was my intention to finishing my AJ-37 in the famous "splinter" camouflage. I was not scared by the pattern but it was my goal to find "the best" match for paints. At the end of many comparisons, I opted for the following colours: Matt Black, Dark Tan (Humbrol 118), Dark Green (Humbrol 114) and Light Green (Humbrol 226). Under surface was Medium Grey (Humbrol 106).

All those colours are very matt, and looking at the pictures of the real Viggens, can fade easily.


The camouflage pattern was made using pieces of Tamiya tape, starting paint a base colour, for me was the Medium Grey. After masking the under surface, I sprayed the Black approximately on the areas where the colour should go. Again put Tamiya masking tape to cover the Black areas, following the 3-view drawing I found on the old italian model magazine. This time I sprayed the Dark Tan colour and repeat the masking step as before. Leave the masking tape on the model until the completely camouflage will be finished. I sprayed the Light Green colour, again masking tape and finally the Dark Green.

Now, with the paint well dried, it's time to discover what going on under... Let me said it was a big, big surprise that none of the colours went over the other and the tape doesn't peel off any chip of paints. I don't know if it was only a matter of lucky, but the Tamiya tape worked perfectly, as for the Humbrol colours.

Radar radome is Black.

Pre-shading with airbrush and weathering with dry-brush and inks was done as usual.


My model reproduced an AJ-37 Viggen of F6 swedish squadron, based at Karlsborg in the 1992, with a "34" red code on the vertical tail.

All the decals came from the new decal sheet produced by Twobobs, so is perfect in colours, adhesion, and no silvering at all.

Future clear cote was given under and over the decal.

An unlucky result was the first cote of clear matt... leave a "white dusk" over the wings attaching areas. After a cleaning job using an eyeglass tissue most of this dusk disappear. Nose cone was satin finished.

Details and Additions

An access ladder was scratch build and painted in Black and Yellow. A couple of F.OD. were also scratch build, painted Yellow and Black and placed inside the engine air intakes. A small triangular Red antenna was put over the fuselage behind the canopy and a Silver A.O.A. sensor on the left side of the nose.




Pictures were taken with my "Olympus" digital camera.

This is another model that requires a lot of effort for an acceptable result, but this will not stop me from starting a new one to reproduce a JA-37... and a SF. Why not?

Many thanks to Fulvio, Luca, Roberto e Marco for help me in this project.



Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright 2003 by Piero De Santis
Page Created 04 August, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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