B 18 - SAAB 18 (1944-1959)
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Swedish Air Force Bomber B 18 - SAAB B 18
Swedish Air Force Bomber B 18 - SAAB B 18

The SAAB 18 design had two purposes. The B 3 (Junkers 86K) needed to be replaced and the Air Force needed an aircraft for strategic reconnaissance. The first of the two prototypes flew in July 1942 by SAAB’s test pilot Claes Smith. Contrary to most other aircraft designs, the SAAB 18 flew without problems from the beginning. The Air Force designated the bomber version B 18 and the reconnaissance version S 18. Later torpedo bomber version, T 18B, was ordered.  

The crew department was asymmetrically placed to the left of the centreline of the rather narrow fuselage. The crew of three had to share a rather small ”office”, where the navigator’s seat was directed backwards.

 The B 18 was built in two versions - B 18A and B 18B.  

B 18A was fitted with two Swedish-built ”pirate copies” of  the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp STW C-3 engine, each delivering 1.065 hp. The aircraft could carry a bomb load of 1.400 kg. The internal bomb bay had room for two 500 kg or three 250 kg bombs or alternatively ten 50 kg bombs. Externally, further eight 50 kg bombs could be carried. The armaments consisted of one fixed and one moveable machine gun. The first operational aircraft was delivered to the Air Force in September 1943. When  the more modern B 18B version began to come into use, the B 18As were modified for reconnaissance missions and re-designated S 18A. 60 B 18A was built.

B 18B was upgraded with the stronger Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine. Most engines were license-built by Svenska Flygmotor AB (now Volvo Aero). The two engines delivered 1.475 hp each. The first series-built B18B was delivered  in October 1945. B 18B was as much an attack aircraft as a conventional bomber. The bomb load was increased to 1.500 kg and the advanced bomb-sight BT9, developed by SAAB, was installed. After a time the B 18B was equipped with attack rockets and new tactics were developed. The crew was now reduced to two, pilot and navigator. Fixed armaments consisted of two 13 mm automatic cannons. In 1949, the aircraft was fitted with ejection seats. 120 aircraft of this version were manufactured. 

In January 1946, the 1st (red) Squadron of Wing F 14 at Halmstad in southern Sweden had been re-armed with B 18B. After only a month, the Squadron was ordered to fly to F 21 at Luleå in the North for winter exercises. Nine B 18B, together with one B 3 took off on the 6th of February,  heading north. At Wing  F 1 in Västerås, the squadron made a stop for refuelling. According to the plan, the flight would continue to F 21  the following day. But as the weather became bad, and most of the pilots had little experience of instrument flying, this was postponed. 

On the  10th of February, the weather was judged improved, and the ten aircraft took off in the morning. Radio silence was ordered to make the exercise more realistic. In the Piteå area, the squadron  flew into a heavy snow fog. The visual contact with the ground was lost and the fuel situation became critical. The aircraft were ordered to land wherever possible. All aircraft, except one, managed to make more or less successful forced landings on the ices around Härnösand. One B 18B was lost together with its crew and was never found. Three other aircraft crashed and were damaged beyond repair.  

One of the more successful landings on the ice was made by Carl Axel Lindh, pilot of  B 18B #18172, marked with code ”D”. The crew was happily saved. Only the pilot had got minor injuries, but when the aircraft was to be salvaged some days later, a wire broke and the aircraft sank to the bottom of the sea.     

None of the about 250 manufactured SAAB 18 of different versions was saved to the future, a decision that soon was regretted. To repair this mistake, diving for the wreck of 18172 began in the beginning of the seventies. After several years, the aircraft was found. In 1979, after 33 years on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, the ”red D” was salvaged. It is now under restoration at one of the exhibitions halls of Flygvapenmuseum (the Swedish Air Force Museum) at Linköping. See photo below.

B/w photos above: B 18A Yellow O (Olof) of 3 rd SQ, Wing F 7 at the airfield. Three B 18B flying with Yellow G (Gustav) of 3 rd Sq, Wing F 7 of Såtenäs, closest to camera.

Length: 13,23 m. Span 17,04 m. MTOW 8693/8793 kg (B 18A/B 18B).


For the Model Builder

The Czech company Kora Models has developed model kits of the both B 18A and B 18B. They are made of resin with photo-etched parts. Scale 1:72. Catalouge number 7293 and 7301.

Kora Models SAAB B 18A scale 1: 72. Catalouge number 7293. Kora Models SAAB B 18B scale 1: 72. Catalouge number 7301.


Swedish Air Force Bomber B 18 - SAAB B 18



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© Lars Henriksson

Updated 2010-07-16