Swedish Air Force Bids Adieu To Its ‘Longest Serving’ Aircraft SAAB SK-60 After Nearly 60 Years Of Service

On the afternoon of June 18, a historic chapter in Swedish aviation came to an end as the Saab 105 jet trainer aircraft, known as the SK 60 in national service, was formally retired after nearly 60 years of service. 

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The farewell ceremony, marked by a spectacular air show, took place at the Air Force Museum in Linköping, drawing aviation enthusiasts and military personnel alike to honor the aircraft. 

The SK 60’s retirement marks the end of an era for the Swedish Air Force, with virtually all Air Force pilots over the past 58 years having trained on the aircraft. For many Swedes, the SK 60 is perhaps most famous for its role in the annual Christmas tree flight, a beloved tradition.

During the farewell ceremony, Air Force Chief Jonas Wikman symbolically handed over a logbook to the Air Force Museum’s director, Noomi Eriksson. 

“We are incredibly happy! This will be an experience for everyone who comes here,” Eriksson stated. The museum will receive a significant number of SK 60s, which will be displayed and used as educational tools at technician schools across the country.

The SwAF is transitioning to the Grob G120TP (SK 14 in SwAF service) turboprop for first-phase flight training, now being introduced at Malmen Air Base in Linköping. The SK 60 will be succeeded by the SK 40 propeller plane. 

Under an agreement signed in December 2023, Swedish fighter pilots will advance to jet training at the Italian International Flight Training School (IFTS) at Decimomannu Air Base in Sardinia following initial training. 

Meanwhile, transport pilots will train with the US Navy, and helicopter pilots will continue their training in Germany, a practice in place for the past 15 years.

The SK 60’s retirement concludes the service of the longest-serving operational aircraft ever built by Saab. Deputy Commander of the SwAF, Brigadier General Tommy Petersson, reflected on the aircraft’s storied legacy during a media briefing in May. 

“It has served us so well – we have had the SK 60 in the Swedish inventory since before I was born. It has served so well, but it is now old,” Brig Gen Petersson remarked. 

Saab SK 60 Trainer Aircraft 

As Sweden bids farewell to the SK 60, the aircraft leaves behind a rich legacy of training generations of Swedish pilots and playing a crucial role in the nation’s aviation history. 

Developed in the early 1960s as a private venture by Saab AB, the Saab 105 is a high-wing, twinjet trainer aircraft. The Swedish Air Force (SwAF) procured the aircraft for various roles, designating it as the SK 60. It entered service in 1967, replacing the aging De Havilland Vampire fleet. 

Throughout its service life, the SK 60 has been praised for its reliability and effectiveness in basic flight training. “A pretty nice aircraft, which is good for basic flight training,” remarked Peter Jacobsson, flight director of the Flight School, who has flown the SK 60 as well as the Jaktviggen (JA 37) and Gripen.

The SK 60 was not only a training aircraft but also played a role in light attack operations. It was used to prevent border crossings, combat helicopters, and participate in joint operations with the army. Several key variants were developed to meet these requirements, including the SK 60B, SK 60C, SK 60D, and SK 60E.

The SK 60B and SK 60C were two-seat attack variants, with the latter also fulfilling reconnaissance roles thanks to a panoramic reconnaissance camera in the nose. 

A Swedish Air Force Saab 105 in flight: Wikipedia

These aircraft could be armed with two automatic 30mm ADEN cannons, attack rockets, and various other munitions installed at hardpoints under the wings, including the RB05 attack missile.

The SK 60D served as a transport variant, replacing the two ejection seats with four airline-type seats or four austere seats with parachutes. Only ten aircraft were permanently configured as SK 60D. The SK 60E was a four-seat variant equipped with civil avionics, including an instrument landing system.

In 1993, the SK 60 underwent a significant upgrade, receiving twin Williams FJ44 engines with 8.45kN thrust and digital engine controls. These engines provided high thrust power and were noted for being quiet and easy to maintain. 

Around 115 aircraft, including SK 60A, SK 60B, and SK 60C, were modified in this way, with the upgraded version informally known as the SK 60 (W). 

The Swedish Air Force acquired 150 SK 60 aircraft, with an additional 40 exported to Austria, where they were designated as Saab 105Ö. The SK 60 was also the aircraft of choice for the Swedish Air Force display team, Team 60, and was formerly used by two Austrian Air Force display teams, “Karo As” and “Silver Birds.” 

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