The FFVS (Kungliga Flygförvaltningens Flygverkstad i Stockholm/Royal Air Administration Aircraft Factory in Stockholm) J 22 was a small light fighter airplane, and an exception to the mostly Saab-built airplanes, which were the ones equipping the Flygvapnet the most. But like those made by Saab during WWII and the early Cold War, this aircraft is a product of the defence needs that the war was imposing upon the Scandinavian nation. Although not so renown as its colleagues, this fighter proved to be a feat of Swedish capacities during dire times and tight resources, compensating its comparatively small size with good firepower and good performance. Of course, and like all of Swedish-made (and imported) air assets, it was purposed with giving Sweden with tools enough to defend its territorial and airspace integrity and security, let alone its neutrality. This under a locally built armament programme while facing restrictions to foreign advanced aviation technology.
A single-seat, single-engine airplane. Its design is conventional, yet the wings are placed further bow of the airframe, with a trapezoid shape. The nose is very similar to those of the American-made fighters, with a wide and cylindrical shape due to the shape of the engine. The cockpit was also placed at the bow section of the fighter, yet slightly aft the leading edge of the wing. The canopy was a bird-canopy design. The canopy hinged to the right side.
The J 22 was powered by a SFA STWC-3G 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engine of 1065 hp, which was an unlicensed version of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine. A three propeller-blade composed the other propulsion element of the aircraft. The engine-propeller combination allowed the J 22 to yield speeds up to 575 km/h (360 mph), being this speed aimed to make the fighter comparable to the Messerschmitt Me109 and Supermarine Spitfire. The first version of the fighter (J 22A/J 22-1) was armed with a set of 2 X 7,9mm and 2 X 13,2mm light and heavy machine guns. The second version (J 22B/J 22-2) was armed with a set of 4 X 13,2mm heavy machine guns. As it not carried bombs or rockets as secondary weapons like most fighter designs of those days, it was a 100%-designed fighter.
The J 22 was developed aiming at providing Sweden with an air asset enough for it to defend its airspace, by providing the Flygvapen with a rather modern fighter. But it was also aiming at producing a new aircraft through a company established solely for this purpose, as Saab was already busy producing the Saab 17 and Saab 18 bombers. in addition, it was purposed with replacing many of the outdated fighter assets the nation had by the beginning of the war. Development began in 1940, with Bo Lundberg as both head of design and head of the newly established company (FFVS). Lundberg was already having experience as head of Swedish Air Commission USA, and as chief designer of Götaverken’s aircraft division that designed the GP 8 bomber and the cancelled GP 9 fighter. He was commissioned with designing a new fighter required to use the STWC-3G (Pratt & Whitney R-1830) engine, being small and light in size and weight, and interestingly, to be made of parts manufactured by a large number of subcontractors. The J 22 development, manufacturing and testing took place at the workshop of Flygtekniska Försöksansalten (FFA) near the Bromma airport. Both prototypes crashed during testing, due to pilot’s oxygen device and engine failures. The J 22 first flight took place in 1942
The J 22 entered in with the Flygvapnet in 1943, remaining in that until 1952, year of its retirement, with 198 fighters built from 1942 to 1946. During its service, it was well received by the pilots, thanks to its good manoeuvrability and responsive controls, capable of giving a fight to the Mustangs P-51 at heights up to 5000 meters (16,000 fts). It did not have stall problems at turns or straight forward course, and the second version (J 22B/J 22-2) was considered the best in terms of firepower. Moreover, the simple systems facilitated maintenance and service. The J 22 was reportedly comparable to the early versions of the Supermarine Spitfire and of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Three J 22 are preserved as static displays in museums.
The design of the J 22 is a conventional one, being a small and lightweight airplane, whose shape is very similar to most US airplanes of the era. The fighter is a cantilever mid-wing design, with its structure being a mixed steel tube and wood construction (plywood) one. In fact, the tubular-steel framework and fuselage were having coverings of moulded plywood panels. The only drawback of the design was that forward visibility was poor.
The J22 wing has the average shape of most WWII-era fighters, a trapezoid shape. It was located slightly towards the bow of the airplane, containing the fighter’s guns and the fuel tanks. In addition, the air intakes were placed at the roots of the wings. The aft section of the airplane contained the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, with the rudder dominating most of the tail, while and as a result, the horizontal stabilizers were placed before the rudder. The landing gear, in turn, was also of classic configuration – two ‘legs’ with the wheel and a tailwheel – being also retractable and rotating, very similar to the Vought-Chance Corsair F4U. The only problem with the tailwheel was that, if left unlocked and able to swivel, it could result in ground-loops. Interestingly, the landing gear was designed to accept skies, that were never installed as snow-clearance service of the runways was improved.
The engine was a SFA STWC-3G 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engine of 1065 hp, an unlicensed copy of the American-made Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine, allowing speeds of up to 575 km/h (360 mph). given the shape of the engine, the nose has the characteristic cylindrical shape of the American homologues. The propelling system was comprised of a three-blade license-built Hamilton standard propeller connected to the engine. Alongside speed, the J 22 was deemed a manoeuvrable and easy to control fighter with good performance especially at low altitudes. Furthermore, it had no stalling problems but the tendency to flip over its back if pulling hard when turning. It was considered capable to outperform the P-51 Mustangs, and be equal to the early versions of the Zero and the Spitfire. The armament had different configurations on the two main versions: The J 22A (J 22-1) was armed with 2 X 7,9mm and 2 X 13,2mm machine guns. The J 22B (J 22-2) was armed with 4 X 13,2mm machine guns. In both cases, the armament was placed at the wings. No secondary weapons were carried.
The canopy was of a bird-cage type, which hinged to the right to allow the pilot to enter and exit the airplane, with the windshield made of 6mm laminated Gremax or acrylic, and the center part being thickened with 60mm for ballistic protection. The gunsight was a fixed reflex sight.
Noteworthy to point out, that 500 hundred contractors produced 12000 of the 17000 total parts of the J 22.
A war-time solution for a non-belligerent nation
The J 22 is also a product of the need to defend the airspace and the neutrality of Sweden, as modern air assets were required to meet this objective. By the beginning of WWII, Sweden was having 60 Seversky P-35 (of the 120 ordered), 60 Italian-made Reggiane 2000 and 72 Fiat CR. 42 biplanes – bought as a temporary measure – and old Gloster Gladiator fighters. As Sweden did never receive the remaining 60 P-35 and 144 Vultee P-66 Vanguard it ordered from the US, due to the embargo imposed to any arms delivered to any country but the United Kingdom after the invasion of Norway by Germany, in 1940.
As a result, Sweden bought the abovementioned Italian fighters to provide the Flygvapnet with some air assets, but it was deemed necessary to introduce up-to-date fighters. Initially, Sweden considered to buy additional fighters from abroad, such as the Finnish VL Mysky, the Soviet Polikarkov I-16 and even the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero. But these options were having problems, such as not bing enough or being impossible to transport into Sweden despite being available, s it was the case of the Zero.
As a result, the FFVS was established, as Saab was already concentrating on the fabrication and development of bombers and fighters, with the sole purpose of developing and manufacturing a new lightweight fighter that would provide the Flygvapnet the needed modern air assets to keeps its neutrality in a world at war. Consequently, it replaced the Gladiator, the Severski, and Reggiane and Fiat fighters while other air asserts were received – like the Mustang P-51 – and the Saab J 21 was ready to enter into service.
The fast and small Viking warrior of the skies
Although the J 22 was a very small and lightweight fighter, it was a very capable one, proving itself to be able to undertake its purposed task: defend the Swedish airspace and neutrality. The secret of its good performance was its engine and structure. It was among the fast fighters the Flygvapnet had back then, reaching speeds of 575 Km/h (360 mph). It was also a manoeuvrable fighter, with a fast turning rate – it was even capable of getting the Mustang in the gunsight by out-turning It – with responsive controls. The altitude where it tended to perform the best was at low altitudes, with the performance decreasing at higher altitudes. Stall problems where rather absent, and it was an airplane easy to maintain and service by land maintenance crews.
Variants of the FFVS J 22
- J 22A (J 22-1) – First production series armed with 2 X ,9 mm M/39A (Browning M2) machine guns and 2 X 13,2 mm heavy machine guns. Operated until 1952. 143 delivered.
- J 22B (J 22-2) – Second production series armed with 4 X 13,2 mm M/39A (Browning M2) heavy machine guns. 55 delivered.
- S 22 (J 22-3) – Reconnaissance version (the S stands for spaning, or ‘reconnaissance’ in Swedish), equipped with a vertically mounted camera. Developed from J 22A (J 22-1) airframes in 1946, refitted as fighters in 1947. Operated until 1952. 9 airframes modified and refitted.
- Sweden – The Flygvapnet operated the J 22 during the last half of WWII, being also in service during the earlier days of the Cold War, as it was retired until 1952. A total of 198 airframes were in service, being 143 of the J 22A version, 55 of the J 22B version and 9 airframes of the first version modified to produce the S 22 version, which served for a very short period of time as reconnaissance airplane. In 1945 all the J 22 were re-designated as J 22-1 for the first version, J 22-2 for the second version, and J 22-3 for the third version. These last airplanes were re-conditioned a year later as fighters. Three J 22 remain today as museum exhibitions in Sweden. It served with seven squadrons throughout its career: F3 Malmen; F8 Bakarby; F9 Säve; F10 Barkråka; F13 Bråvalla; F16 Uppsala; and F18 Tullinge. The S22 (J 22-3) served only in the F3 Malmen squadron.
J 22 Specifications
|Wingspan||10 m / 32 ft 10 in|
|Length||7,80 m / 25 ft 7 in|
|Height||3,60 m / 11 ft 10 in|
|Wing Area||16 m² / 172,16 ft²|
|Engine||1 SFA STWC-3G (Pratt & Whitney R-1830) 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engine of 1065 hp|
|Maximum Take-Off Weight||2835 Kg / 6,250 lb|
|Empty Weight||2020 kg / 4,445 lb|
|Loaded Weight||2835 kg / 6,240 lb|
|Maximum Speed||575 km/h / 360 mph|
|Range||1270 Km / 790 miles|
|Maximum Service Ceiling||9300 m /30,500 ft|
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