Flygvapenmuseum in Linköping

The Flyugvapenmuseum erected several aircraft displays along the highway.

Marie and I finally made it to the Swedish Air Force Museum. Some call it the Saab Flight Museum because Saab has a near monopoly on military aircraft in Sweden. It was amazing and inexpensive. Previous attempts never happened because something came up or we spent too much time at IKEA in Linköping. Since this was a birthday event, we made it happen this time, skipping IKEA, but we waved to the big blue and yellow building as we passed..

Linköping – pronounced lin-shepping — is about an hour and fifteen minutes from Valdemarsvik, and has the closest IKEA.

The JAS 39 Gripen is Sweden’s current top of the line fighter.

Aircraft on display spanned WWI to Sweden’s current top of the line JAS 39 Gripen fighter. Looks a bit like an F-16 with touches of French Mirage (forward ailerons). And for about 12 bucks (100 SEK) you can get 15 minutes in a Gripen flight simulator.

Since it was my birthday, I gave it a whirl. Take off went well. I navigated from Linkoping to the coast and down to Valdemarsvik. I flew down the length of the fjord at 1,000 feet or less to the Baltic Sea, did a power climb and full roll, but in trying to reverse course, I died in the Baltic Sea.

Flight simulator with visible heads-up display in center screen.

If you’re banking, your wings are beyond 90 degrees, and you pull back to climb, you are heading down, not up, and fast! I also clipped a tree on landing and died just short of the runway.

According to their literature, the museum had 48 aircraft on display indoors, plus a completely destroyed DC-3 spy plane, and additional aircraft outdoors.

The DC-3 was shot down by a Soviet Mig-15 in 1952. In 1991 the Russian government admitted the DC-3 was in international air space and that they destroyed it. Eight crew members were killed. Sweden denied all knowledge of what happened to the plan and crew until the Soviet admission fearing domestic backlash and further Soviet aggression. During the search a Mig-15 also shot down a Catalina flying boat, pictured underneath the Spitfire.

DC-3 spy play wreckage.

The DC-3 was discovered in 124 meters of water in 1992, and recovered. The basement floor of the museum is now dedicated to the wreckage and this story.

Flygvapenmuseumet (the Flygvapenmuseum) presented a special series of exhibits on the history of the cold war, 1950 – 1980. There were indoor pavilions for each decade including a typical Swedish kitchen and living room. Marie kept saying, oh, I remember that, we had that, we HAVE that.

There was also an exhibit on Soviet submarines running aground on Swedish islands in the ‘80s. When I first visited Marie in Sweden we book a weekend in a small island cabin on the Baltic. On the way we say a large sign posted on another island declaring in Swedish that this was a secure military area and foreigners were prohibited. In was in Swedish, English, and Russian. I went anyway. It was booked. I came home with a poster from the harbor bulletin board. The headline was “Ubåt eller inte?” and at the bottom “Kontakta Marinen”. The photo was a periscope breaking the water. The poster still hags near my desk.

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One of the striking things I learned from the exhibits was how eclectic Sweden was in building its air force and its aircraft industry. They acquired aircraft from France, Brittan, Italy, Germany, and the US; often with a license to remanufacture copies of engines or entire aircraft. Between WWI and WWII they acquired bombers from Germany and Italy. During WWII the Germans seized a batch of Pratt and Whitney engines in France. Those engines ended up in Sweden and then the Swedes began manufacturing them, without a license, to power fighter planes that resembled a Focke-Wulf FW-190 German fighter. Post WWI the Swedes deployed 161 surplus P-51s and 50 Spitfires. As always, the P-51 was my favorite. But the Spitfire looks very cool as well and was a top performer. Sweden later began manufacturing original domestic jet aircraft designs.

Other Notes

Sweden deployed 161 P-51s and later liquidated them. When the museum sought one, they had all been sold. In 1966 Israel gave one to the museum as a gift. Sweden acquired about 60 Spitfires. They had good taste.

The J29 Tunnan was the first Swedish designed and built aircraft to take full advantage of jet power; speed, acceleration, climbing ability, and a high operating ceiling. In the field, one engineer and a handful of conscripts could turn the aircraft the aircraft around in ten minutes. During the early 60’s Congo Crisis Sweden contributed a squadron to the UN mission.

The current Swedish air superiority fighter is the JAS 39 Gripen.