J 22 History

As World War Two began, Sweden was expected deliveries of American P-35s and Vultee 48c Vanguards, to strengthten its Air Force. However, in October 1940, only 60 aircrafts were delivered (on a total of 120 ordered) and further deliveries were embargoed by the American Government.

Developing an all-swedish fighter

The war mobilised all the main aircraft manufacturers around the world. Soon, Sweden decided they would design and produce their own fighter aircraft. The sole Swedish aircraft manufacturer, Saab, was already developing and producing bombers. They had a fighter project on the drawing board : the Saab J 21, but it was not expected to enter service earlier than 1945-46. Sweden needed another fighter aircraft to be produced very soon to keep the Air Force up to date.

The Swedish Government oredered the development of a new fighter, without involving the Saab people and facilites already busy with their own aircrafts. The FFVS company was created and Bo Lundberg was designated as manager of the project. He presented his ideas for a small lightweight fighter of rather unconventional design. The J 22 had a mid-wing design and its fuselage and wing structures were made of welded steel tubes, covered by moulded birch plywood panels. Those panels were integrated part of the loadbearing structure and took a considerable amount of the stress and loadforces.

Mobilising Sweden’s skills

500 subcontractors throughout the countries were mobilised to produce the different parts of the aircraft. New welding techniques were developped to ensure the strict tolerance of the structure construction. The Air Force deciced to assemble the aircrafts in the new ABA (today part of Scandinavian Airlines) maintenance hangar at Bromma Airport in Stockholm.

 

Producing the J 22

The proper production was scheduled to start in mid-1943 after two prototypes had been built and test flown. The design office, established in 1941, was lacking qualified personnel, to respect the tight schedule. However on September 20th 1942, the first prototype made its maiden flight at Bromma with Major Olof Enderlein, chief of the Air Force Test Centre, at the controls.

Series production had actually begun and in October 1943 the first operational J 22 was delivered to F9 wing in Gothenburg. Until 1945, 198 J 22 were built and delivered to the Air Force.

Three variants of the J 22 were produced :

  • J 22A : First production batch, equipped with 2×7.9mm and 2×13.mm machineguns. 143 were built, and later designated as J 22-1.
  • J 22B : Armed with 4×13.2mm machineguns. 55 were built and later designated as J 22-2.
  • S 22 : 9 J 22A were equipped for reconnaissance in 1946. They were designated as S 22-3 in 1945 and re-equipped as fighters in 1947.

The career of the J 22 ended in 1951, when the last squadron swapped its planes for jet fighters.

 

Performances

The J 22 was highly appreciated by the pilots for its good manoeuverability. The technicians were also pleased by the simplicity of maintenance of the different systems. The aircraft was the fastest fighter of the Swedish Air Force when introduced, and its firepower and manoeuverability were almost as good as contemporary fighters.

The aircraft was powered by a 1065hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp, which at the end of the war was already poorly powered, and poorly efficient at high altitude, compared to latest engines produced in the USA, UK or Germany.

However, as the aircraft was of very light construction, the aircraft happened to be very good at low altitudes with a fast turning rate and high manoeuverability. In a mock combat with a P-51 Mustang, the J 22 initially climbed faster and at a steeper angle. Below 1.500 metres, the Mustang was outturned horizontally by the Swedish fighter which was able to turn “inside” and get the mustang’s tail in the gunsight…