The Saab 340: A Strong History and a Candidate for the U.S. Military

Since its first delivery in 1984, the Saab 340 has been a workhorse in the regional aircraft market. A strong choice for both commercial and special mission purposes, the 340 remains the world's best-selling 34-seat airliner.

A History of Innovation and Reliability

Saab was founded in 1937. The company spent its early years focused primarily on military aircraft manufacturing, with the exception of the Saab Scandia civil aircraft in the 1950s, of which 18 examples were built. By the late 1970s, Saab decided to again enter the commercial aviation market, and identified U.S.-based Fairchild Aircraft as a strong and experienced potential collaborator. Saab and Fairchild discussed the joint development of a 30-seat aircraft, and signed a formal agreement on January 25, 1980 to produce the Saab Fairchild 340A (SF-340A).

To keep production efficient, Fairchild manufactured wings, engine nacelles and tail units, and sent these parts to an assembly line in Linkoping, Sweden. The pieces were then joined with a Saab-made aluminum fuselage. This state-of-the-art design combined compound materials with multi-layer bonding to boost the airframe's strength.

After Fairchild left the SF-340A program in 1985, Saab continued developing the renamed "Saab 340A" on its own to fulfill the requirements of its growing customer base. Over time, these improvements have become production standard, and include upgraded cabins with larger overhead bins, a more powerful engine, an active noise and vibration control system, and optional extended wingtips, among other advances.

Of the 459 Saab 340 aircraft built, there are 373 currently in use by 49 operators across North, Central and South America, Europe, Asia and the Oceania region, including a number of dedicated cargo versions. In total, these aircraft have accumulated 15,317,000 flight hours. Saab ended production of the 340 in 1997, and the final 340 delivery took place in 1999. However, the company continues to support the aircraft type; the fleet currently maintains a dispatch reliability greater than 99 per cent.

 

A Smart Candidate for the U.S. Military

The Saab 340's capabilities extend beyond the commercial market. With its time-sensitive and mission-critical responsiveness, the 340 has proven its reliability and durability in demand all weather military environments. It currently serves as a military and/or special mission aircraft for the Swedish Air Force, the Argentine Air Force, the Royal Thai Air Force and the Japanese Coast Guard – and would make a smart addition to the U.S. Armed Forces as well.

The 340's versatility fits with the U.S. military's diverse range of global operations, such as logistical resupply, casualty evacuation, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and Homeland Security support. The aircraft's multi-role functionality spans ISR, search and rescue, transport, medevac while being able to operate in austere environments. Additionally, the 340 offers modification ability, low operational cost, and Part 25 design standards to maximize safety. This ease of maintenance, combined with demonstrated flexibility, reliability and durability, would make it a significant and cost-efficient asset to the U.S. Armed Forces.