The Austrian Air Force, long fond of flying unusual Swedish types to stay as neutral as possible during the Cold War, is saying a hard goodbye to the Saab 105ÖE after 50 years of long and hard use.
Evolved from a turbofan business jet concept by the Swedish firm, the 105 first flew in 1963, and in all less than 200 were produced over the course of a decade.
Featuring side-by-side seating for its two-man crew, in many ways, it was similar to the Cessna T-37 Tweet/A-37 Dragonfly as it could serve as either a training or light attack aircraft, although it was nowhere near as popular. In fact, outside of Sweden, Vienna was the only buyer of the type, ordering 40 in 1970 to replace aging second-hand Saab 29 Tunnan “flying barrels.”
In regular service with the Austrians ever since, the 105ÖE (ÖE= for Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte) not only served a dual-hatted peacetime training/combat ground attack role, it was used by both of the country’s demonstration teams and in surveillance and air sovereignty missions until it was replaced in the latter by reconditioned Saab 35 Drakens in the late 1980s. (The Drakens proved useful, chasing down errant Yugoslav MiG-21s on more than one occasion.)
The Austrians currently run two understrength squadrons of Tranche 1 Typhoons, with Pilatus PC-7s providing training, although that is subject to change. Nonetheless, the SB 105’s time will cease at the end of the year.
The Austrian Air Force currently has two of their 18 remaining SB 105s painted in amazing livery and a terrific photo dump is online.