Cold War Era

Video features former Viggen driver explaining how JA-37 pilots were able to achieve radar lock on SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 spy planes

Swedish JA-37 fighter pilots were able to successfully acquire radar lock on SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 spy planes by means of the Skyflash air-to-air missile.

The interesting video in this post features retired fighter-pilot Thorbjörn Engback explaining how he and other Swedish fighter pilots were able to successfully acquire radar lock on U.S. Air Force (USAF) SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 spy planes, in their SAAB JA-37 Viggens, by means of the British Aerospace (Bae) Skyflash air-to-air missile.

Be sure to select English subtitles in the settings of the video to enjoy Engback’s story.

At the height of the Cold War, when East-West tensions were at their greatest, Swedish JA-37 Jaktviggen (or fighter Viggen) fighter pilots were scrambled on 400-500 live Quick Reaction Alert (QRA)missions per year to intercept any unidentified aircraft approaching Swedish airspace.

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QRA targets came from both Warsaw and NATO nations, and were usually flying close to Swedish airspace over the Baltic Sea or the Gulf of Bothnia.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

As we have already explained in a previous extensive piece (click here to read the article), no doubt the most challenging QRA targets were the U.S. Air Force’s Lockheed SR-71As, that often passed very close to Swedish airspace on their regular ‘Baltic Express’ missions.

The SR-71’s awesome performance capabilities provided a unique opportunity for Swedish fighter controllers and JA-37 fighter pilots to evaluate various intercept solutions against a high-speed, high-altitude threat.

Furthermore Swedish Air Force Viggens could also assist the legendary Blackbird if the latter experienced an inflight emergency, as happened on Jun. 29, 1987 when four Swedish JA-37 pilots protected an SR-71 that had an inflight engine failure. The Swedish pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony held in Stockholm, Sweden, on Nov. 28, 2018, recognizing their actions that took place almost 32 years ago.

Artwork courtesy of

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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