Swiss Air Force

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Swiss Air Force
Swiss Air Force logo.gif
Founded 31 July 1914
Country   Switzerland
Role Air Defense
Size 1,600 active professional personnel[1]
Part of Swiss Armed Forces
Staff to the Chief
of the Armed Forces
Bundeshaus Ost, Bern
Commanders
Head of the Air Force Lieutenant General Aldo C. Schellenberg
Insignia
Swiss Air Force Badge Schweizer-Luftwaffe Verbandsabzeichen.gif
Roundel Swiss roundel.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack F/A-18 Hornet, F-5 Tiger
Electronic
warfare
F-5 Tiger
Helicopter Eurocopter Cougar/Super Puma
Interceptor F/A-18 Hornet, F-5 Tiger
Patrol F/A-18 Hornet
Reconnaissance ADS-95 Ranger
Trainer Pilatus PC-7/PC-9/PC-21

The Swiss Air Force (German: Schweizer Luftwaffe; French: Forces aériennes suisses; Italian: Forze aeree svizzere; Romansh: Aviatica militara svizra) is the air component of the Swiss Armed Forces, established on 31 July 1914 as part of the army and in October 1936 an independent service.

In peacetime, Dübendorf is the operational air force headquarters. The Swiss Air Force operates from several fixed bases (see current status) but its personnel are also trained to carry out air operations from temporary highway airstrips. In case of crisis or war, several stretches of road are specially prepared for this option.

History[edit]

The Early Years[edit]

A squadron of airplaines standing in a row on the airfield Dübendorf.

The first military aviation in Switzerland took the form of balloon transport, pioneered by Swiss balloonist Eduard Spelterini, but by 1914 there was still little official support for an air corps. The outbreak of World War I changed opinions drastically and cavalry officer Theodor Real was charged with forming a flying corps. He commandeered three civilian aircraft at Bern's airfield and set about training the initial nine pilots at a makeshift airfield close to Wankdorf Stadium, later moving to a permanent home at Dübendorf. Switzerland remained neutral and isolated during the conflict, and the air corps confined its activities to training and exercises, reconnaissance and patrol.[2] It was only with the worsening international situation in the 1930s that an effective air force was established at great cost, with up-to-date Messerschmitt Bf 109, Macchi MC.202 and Morane-Saulnier D‐3800 fighters ordered from Germany, Italy and France respectively (the Moranes were license-built in Switzerland).[3] The Swiss Air Force as an autonomous military service was created in October 1936.[2]

World War II[edit]

A Bf 109-E3
A restored Swiss Air Force P-51D

Although Switzerland remained neutral throughout World War II, it had to deal with numerous violations of its airspace by combatants from both sides – initially by German aircraft, especially during their invasion of France in 1940. Zealous Swiss pilots attacked and shot down eleven German aircraft, losing two of their own, before a threatening memorandum from the German leadership forced General Guisan to forbid air combat above Swiss territory.

Later in the war, the Allied bomber offensive sometimes took US or British bombers into Swiss airspace, either damaged craft seeking safe haven or even on occasions bombing Swiss cities by accident. Swiss aircraft would attempt to intercept individual aircraft and force them to land, interning the crews. Only one further Swiss pilot was killed during the war, shot down by a US bomber crew in September 1944. From September red and white neutrality bands were added to the wings of aircraft to stop accidental attacks on Swiss aircraft by Allied aircraft.[4]

Official Swiss records identify 6,501 airspace violations during the course of the war, with 198 foreign aircraft landing on Swiss territory and 56 aircraft crashing there.

The Cold War[edit]

Swiss DH112 Venom Mk1R on display
Swiss DH100 Vampire Mk6 on display
Swiss Hawker Hunter Mk58 on display
Swiss Dassault Mirage IIIRS recon on display

After World War II the service was renamed the Swiss Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Command (Schweizerische Flugwaffe Kommando der Flieger und Fliegerabwehrtruppen) and in 1966 became a separate service independent from the Army, under its present name Schweizer Luftwaffe.[5]

With the apparently imminent prospect of a new world war, this one involving nuclear weapons, Swiss military spending increased and jet aircraft were purchased: 75 De Havilland Vampires in 1950, quickly followed by over 100 De Havilland Venoms and the same number of Hawker Hunters. The Venoms served until 1983, while Vampires and Hunters continued in active service until 1990 and 1994 respectively. Switzerland was among those European countries that purchased the North American P-51 Mustang from US surplus stocks post World War 2. This aircraft initially was only intended as a stop-gap solution for the Swiss Air Force in order to maintain a capable defence force during a time when obsolete Bf-109E's and Swiss built D-3801 Morane fighters were due to be withdrawn from use, but the license production of the British designed Dh-100 Vampire and Dh-112 Venom jets was not in full swing yet.

At the end of the 1950s, reflecting both the threat of possible invasion by the Soviet Union and the realities of nuclear warfare, Swiss military doctrine changed to mobile defense that included missions for the air force outside of its territory, in order to defeat standoff attacks and nuclear threats, including the possibility of defensive employment of air-delivered nuclear weapons.[6] However the inability to field an air force of sufficient capability to carry out such missions led to a return of traditional "protection of own territory" doctrine.[7] Meanwhile, the Air Force also began to prepare ad-hoc airbases in the mountains, with sections of highway strengthened to act as runways and hangars carved out of the mountains.

In 1954 the first Air Radar Recruit School was activated, the first early warning radar systems were installed and the concept of command & control facilities at mountain summits was introduced; leading to acquisition of the FLORIDA early warning and command guidance system in 1965 followed by the current FLORAKO system in 2003. At the same time, ground-based air defence projects were initiated such as radar-equipped medium-caliber guns with an integrated 63 Superfledermaus (Superbat) fire control system' as well as the BL-64 ‘Bloodhound’ air defense missile system (1964–1999).

After the prototypes EFW N-20 and FFA P-16, Switzerland did not invest in development of its own combat aircraft. In 1964 the procurement of the Dassault Mirage III fighters (1964–2002) caused a scandal due to severe budget overruns. The air force commander, the chief of the general staff and the minister of defense were forced to resign, followed by a complete restructuring of the air force and air defense units as of February 1, 1968 and leading to separation of users and procurement officials.

In 1969, Air Force logistics and air defense were reassigned into brigades. The Armed Forces Meteo Group and Avalanche Rescue Service came under air force and air defense command and the Para Reconnaissance Company was established.

The 1970s were the years of historic major maneuvers with over 22,000 participants. Also a new air defense concept was introduced in which the air superiority fighter as opposed to a pure interceptor was central. In 1974 the first 2 Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters were tested and in 1978 the first F-5 Tiger fighter/interceptor squadron became operational. The F-5 is currently still operational but is scheduled to be replaced in 2015.

After the Cold war[edit]

Meiringen air base viewed from the Rothorn, 2007

In the late 1980s the changing political and military world situations implied the need of a multirole aircraft in the Swiss Air Force. After evaluation, the performance of the F/A-18 Hornet was the decisive factor in its selection. Designed for carrier-borne operations, it was felt to be well suited to operations on short runways with steep takeoffs. Its radar allows the F/A-18 to detect and simultaneously engage multiple targets with long-range guided missiles.

Between 1996 and 1999, 34 licence-built Hornets left the assembly lines at Emmen. With a length of 17 metres, the F/A-18 is longer than the Mirage III. Its wingspan of 12 metres exceeds the F-5 Tiger’s by 4 metres. Therefore the existing caverns in the mountains had to be extended, a continuing process as of 2011. The Swiss F/A-18 weighs 17 tons, approximately 2.5× as much as the Tiger. It can easily load 7 tons, about 6x the useful load of the retired Hawker Hunter. The engines provide for a thrust of 16 tons, approximately 3.5× as much performance as the F-5 engines.

The Swiss Air Force was unable to respond to the hijacking Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702, which landed at Geneva International Airport on February 17, 2014, because the incident happened outside normal office hours.

Mission[edit]

In 1995 the Swiss implemented a defensive plan that made control of Swiss airspace its highest and main priority. Modernization of the air force to achieve this mission was subject to popular referenda challenging its cost and practice.[5]

The mission of the Swiss Air Force is as follows:[5]

  • General control and protection of Swiss airspace.
  • Guaranteeing air sovereignty by means of air policing tasking.
  • Guaranteeing air defence throughout the country.
  • Capability of executing airlift ops.
  • Gathering and disseminating intelligence for political/military leadership.

Current status[edit]

Swiss air force aerobatics team Patrouille Suisse uses F-5E Tigers
A Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger II crossing a road between the runway and an aircraft cavern in Mollis airfield in 1999.
F/A-18D Hornet at Payerne

Through the years, the Swiss Air Force traditionally had been a militia-based service, including its pilots, with an inventory of approximately 450 aircraft whose operational service life overlapped several eras. Beginning with its separation from the army in 1966 however, the air force has been down-sizing (currently approximately 230 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft) and moving toward a small professional cadre with fewer reserves and low-graduated conscripted personnel for general tasks.[8] Currently the Swiss Air Force has a peacetime strength of 1600 professional military personnel with the ability to recall to about 20,000 reservists.[1]

Its front-line air defence asset consists of 32 F-18 Hornets and 54 F-5 Tiger IIs (originally 110 purchased in 1978–85).[9] The F/A-18 pilots are all full-time professional military; the F-5 pilots are largely reservists. These reservists are mostly airliner or freightliner pilots who also have an F-5 rating. During reserve duty periods, they are assigned to military duties and must refresh their operational live flying training. In 2008, the Swiss Hornet component reached the 50,000 flight hour milestone.[10] All Swiss Hornets remain highly capable due to the Upgrade 21 (UG21) programme conducted between 2004 and 2009 at RUAG, while another Mid-Life Update (MLU) will begin shortly.[11]

From 2011, the Air Force intended to start the Partial F-5 Tiger Replacement programme for 22 new aircraft. Candidate types were the JAS 39 Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale.[12][13] On 30 November 2011, the Swiss government announced its decision to buy 22 Gripen NG fighters.[14][15][16] The contract for the 22 aircraft was signed at 3.1 billion Swiss francs.[17] On 25 August 2012, the order was confirmed by both the Swedish and Swiss authorities.[18][19][20] The first aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2018. Eleven current generation (8 JAS 39Cs/3 JAS 39Ds) Gripen fighters will be leased from 2016 to 2020 in order to train Swiss fighter pilots while avoiding expensive upkeep of the current F-5s. In a national referendum on 18 May 2014, 53.4% of Swiss voters voted against the purchase of JAS 39 Gripen.[21]

On 10 December 2010, the last 20 aging Aérospatiale Alouette III were replaced by two VIP configuration Eurocopter EC135s and 18 EC635s.[8] The first EC-635 was delivered in 2008.[22]

Limitations[edit]

A report in the Swiss news-magazine FACTS has revealed that in peacetime the Swiss Air Force provides ready-to-take-off aircraft only during office hours on working days. Air Force staff regarded a peacetime 24/7 operational-flying status as "mission impossible" due to budget limitations and limited professional (flying) personnel capacity. This did not apply to the air-defence radar coverage, which guarantees 24/7 peacetime operational capacity.[23] One major problem in defending Swiss airspace is the small size of the country;[citation needed] the maximum extension of Switzerland is 348 km,[citation needed] a distance that commercial aircraft can fly in little over 20 minutes[citation needed] and military jets, much more quickly.[citation needed] Noise-abatement issues have traditionally caused problems for the Air Force because of the tourist industry.[24] Due to these reasons, the Swiss Air Force more and more participates in NATO air-defense training exercises with their Belgian, French or German counterparts[clarify].[citation needed] In recent years,[which?] this has included operations for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, the Euro 2008 football championships and the annual World Economic Forum.[24]

The Swiss Air Force was unable to respond to the Ethiopian Airlines ET702 hijacking, because this occurred outside of normal office hours.[25][26]

Operational structure[edit]

Swiss Air Force fighter pilot flight suit and ejection seat
Cougar AS532 T 334 Swiss Air Force Rescue Exercise
T-354 Swiss Air Force Eurocopter EC635

The 2009 Swiss air forces operational order of battle is as follows:[27][28]

  • Bern Airport International Airpt.LSZB / LSMB
    • LTDB (VIP flights)
  • Dübendorf Air Base LSMD (army airfield), a former fighter/interceptor base and current homebase of
    • Swiss Air Force Command
      • Air Defense & Direction Center (the air defense C3 airops center)
      • Skyguide (military & civil airtraffic control)
      • Berufsfliegerkorps
      • PC-7 Team Homebase
    • 3rd Airlift Wing
      • 3rd and 4th Air Transport Sqn with AS 332M-1/AS 532UL/EC635 P2+[29]
  • Flugplatzkommando 2 Alpnach Air Base LSMA (airbase 2), a helicopter airlift/logistic base and maintenance unit.
  • Militärflugplatz Buochs AirportLSZC (army airfield), a deactivated former air defense base. Currently marked as "sleeping airbase" open for civil and sport aviation. In time of crisis the military airfield installations may be made operational at very short notice as there still are aircraft shelter facilities inside the nearby mountain ridge.
  • Flugplatzkommando 4 Locarno Air Base LSMO (airbase 4), a flight training base (PC-6/7/9's); Para Recon Training base, Light Airlift base
  • Flugplatz Ambri Airport, LSPM a former air defense base hosting Hawker Hunters. Currently deactivated and open for commercial flights. The aircraft storage facilities inside the mountain ridge are empty but still available.
  • Flugplatz Interlaken Airport LSMI, a former fighter/interceptor base hosting 12 F-5 Tigers. Currently deactivated and closed for all air traffic; converted into a leisure area.
  • Flugplatzkommando 7 Emmen Air Base LSME (airbase 7), a fighter/interceptor base hosting
    • Dronensqn (Dronesqn) 7 with ADS-95
    • 7th Air Transport Sqn with Pilatus PC-6
    • 12th Air Target Sqn with Pilatus PC-9/F-5E
    • 24th Sqn The ECM Sqn use the Ericson Vista5 ECM on F-5F and PC-9
    • Patrouille Suisse Homebase
    • GRD Armasuisse Homebase
    • Advanced Pilot training base with Pilatus PC-21
  • Flugplatz Lodrino Air Base LSML, a former air defense base hosting Hawker Hunters. Currently deactivated and open for commercial flights, only used by PC-6 for Par Recon Training, alternate Airport for PC-7 and Helicopters if landing in Locarno is not possible.
  • Flugplatz MollisLSMF, a former air defense base hosting Hawker Hunters. Currently deactivated and open for commercial flights. Aircraft storage facilities inside the mountain ridge are empty but still available.
  • Flugplatzkommando 1 Payerne Air Base LSMP (airbase 1), an air defense base hosting
    • Escadrille Transport Aérien (Airliftsqn) 1 and 5th Air Transport Sqn with Super Puma and AS 532UL
    • Fightersqn 6 with F-5 Tiger
    • Fightersqn 17 and 18 with F/A-18C/D
    • Flight Training Unit 12
  • Flugplatzkommando 13 Meiringen air baseLSMM (airbase 13), an air defense base hosting
    • Fliegerstaffel (Fighter/Interceptorsqn) 8, with F-5 Tiger
    • Fightersqn 11 with F/A-18C/D
  • Flugplatzkommando 14 Sion Airport LSGS / LSMS (airbase 14), a fighter/interceptor base hosting
    • Fighter/Interceptorsqn 19 with F-5E Tiger
    • Fighter/Trainersqn 16 with F-5F Sharing them with FlSt 24

About the squadrons see: Swiss Air Force aircraft squadrons

Air defense[edit]

FLORAKO Command & Control unit at the summit of Mt Pilatus.

During the past 35 years, Swiss military and civil airspace control depended on the FLORIDA (FLugsicherungs Operations Radar IDentifikation Alarm – Flight Ops, Radar Identifying, and Alerting) air defense system.

Since its phasing out, however, the Swiss airspace control and defence is being carried out by the THALES Raytheon FLORAKO. This system is being operated from 4 fixed locations at the summits of the Pilatus, Scopi, Weisshorn and Weissfluh mountains in the Alps.

At least one of these Command, Control, and Communications (C3) facilities is always connected to the Air Defense & Direction Center (ADDC or air ops center) at Dübendorf and fully operational on-line on a 24/7 basis, controlling Swiss airspace. Depending on the international situation, more facilities will be manned; in case of crisis or war (ADDC and 4 facilities operational) the coverage will be extended far beyond the Swiss boundaries. Each of these facilities is capable of making all battle management decisions if ADDC or the other facilities were eliminated.[11]

The first FLORAKO unit was activated in 2003 and the operational lifetime of this hi-tech system is guaranteed by its manufacturers for at least 25 years. The system consists of:

  • A communication system KOMSYS. Integrating element of all geographically divided parts of the FLORAKO system uniting speech, data communications, and system commands in a single data network.
  • A radar station FLORES. Consisting of standard high-power search radars, advanced radars (search mode, high-update ratio, and special functions), and civil authority monopulse secondary radars. The 4 radar stations are the main data sources and are complemented by existing military and civil radar data.
  • A radar layer-system RALUS. Translating the data automatically into flight paths and producing a complete civil-military air picture for all authorities.
  • A warning message system LUNAS-EZ. AirOps Centers are the combining factors between the FLORAKO-system with real-time data (air picture, planning, and environmental data) and its military users. Workstations are identically configured and built accordingly to latest ergonomics, visual colour high resolution, menu guidance, and known user environment. The Dübendorf Air Defense & Direction Center – as well as the air operations units in the Alps – are equally equipped, thus assuring full-time operational redundancy in
    • producing the actual airpicture
    • permanent defence of Swiss airspace
    • early warning
    • command and control
    • air policing
    • coordination of civil and military air traffic
  • The Military-Civil Airspace Management System MICAMS. This secondary system provides a computing backup for flexible airspace use for both civil and military flight security.

The radar system may eventually be completed by 2 mobile TAFLIR (TAktische FLIeger Radars – Tactical Flight Radars). These Ground Master 200 type AN/MPQ-64 radars are a variant of the Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-75 and are deployable in areas of difficult terrain or where specific coverage is needed. Peacetime TAFLIR deployment locations are at Dübendorf and Emmen. In time of crisis or at war they can be deployed anywhere.[11]

Military air surveillance[edit]

In Switzerland (including the airspace of Liechtenstein) military air surveillance is also called Permanent Air Surveillance (PlÜ). This ensures uninterrupted 24/365 coverage with the FLORAKO system, wherein the IDO (Identifications Officer) and the TM (Track Monitor) monitor and represented the air situation as Recognized Air Picture.

The Swiss Air Force has several operational centers. In peacetime, the primary military command center is located at Dübendorf airfield, in the same building the civilian air traffic control Skyguide uses. The locations of the other operational centers are secret. The command centers are part of the unit "Einsatz Luftwaffe," the chief of which is directly subordinate to the commander of the Air Force. It consists of the operations center of the Air Force, redundant direct connections to the emergency organizations (air rescue and federal police), as well as to the two Skyguide air traffic centers (Geneva and Zurich), and to the relevant military and civilian air traffic control centers of neighboring countries.

Currently the sky is continuously monitored, but intervention resources are usually available only on weekdays during the day. Usually, increased availability of resources is limited to major exercises, international conferences (WEF), or crises (e.g. the Libyan Civil War in 2011). This heightened state is called PlÜ + (PlÜ PLUS) or ILANA. The Swiss Federal Assembly has adopted a requirement that armed interceptors are to be ready 24 hours a day, but the Federal Council has not released the necessary funding. Meeting the parliamentary requirement would require increased operations at two air bases as well as modifications to civilian sites in Geneva and Zürich. This objective not is expected be met until 2017.

Ground Based Air Defense[edit]

The Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) is currently headquartered at Emmen Airbase. Since the deactivation of the former BL-64 "Bloodhound" missile system it achieves its task by operating a triple combined mobile coverage system [11] consisting of:

  • Rapier the mobile 10 km range surface-to-air missile system with its components
    • launcher/surveillance radar/IFF combination
    • tracker radar
    • display unit
    • 2 generators
    • 2x 4 missiles
  • FIM-92 Stinger MANPAD 4.8 km range surface-to-air missile systems (fire & forget system)
    • Stinger Alert short range radar
  • Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannons 4 km range firing unit with its component
    • Skyguard firecontrol system 75/95 (15 km detection range)

Air policing[edit]

Despite the persistent lack of continuous availability of armed fighter jets for the entire year, the Swiss Air Force regularly conducts the air policing. Contrary to popular perception, air policing is one of the most complex and challenging tasks of the Air Force. Unknown aircraft have to be identified within a short time and in all weather conditions without error margin and intercepted if necessary. Air policing is performed daily and is always a real commitment and not on the sideline of things happening in parallel (e.g. air combat exercises). Air policing would ensure the control and sovereignty of Swiss airspace and security in air transport. Thus, the Air Force not only carries out the tasks of an independent state (if one includes Liechtenstein: states) but also acts for the benefit of civil aviation (FOCA & Skyguide). In air policing, aircraft will either be intercepted by the Swiss Air Force and visually inspected; it is checked whether the aircraft complies with the timetable specified information (type, registration, operator) and whether abnormal characteristics are apparent. Or aircraft are followed and observed to see if the pilot complies with air traffic rules (sink rate, speed, type, weather conditions, etc. as appropriate).

Active air policing interventions
  • Help for civilian aircraft, for example problems with navigation and radio
  • "Visible" (escort) to make an airplane with a faulty transponder visible for civil ATC
  • Finding from flares with forwarding to emergency organizations (e.g. REGA)
  • Identification of airspace violations as not allowed ingress or schedule disruptions
  • Intervention to monitor safety where VFR aircraft enters airways or the arrival & departure corridors of airports
  • Enforcing the use of airspace restrictions (e.g. WEF, G8)
  • Monitor airspace in hijacking events
  • Management of crisis situations (e.g. approximation of enemy/terrorist aircraft at the border)

Services to other organizations[edit]

The Swiss Air Force met along with these tasks with their EQUIPMENT and staff a variety services for various other organizations. It provides one of the secondary FLORAKO radar civilian Skyguide with radar data and enables a safe air traffic management. Air Force helicopters and drones regularly conduct surveillance flights for the Border Guard Corps GWK, are also for surveillance flights (e.g. Street Parade) and searching flights for the benefit of the police and the REGA. Also in support of the Fire Department for fire fighting where there drones and helicopters with FLIR used to locating nests of fire in forest fires. The helicopter of the Swiss Air Force can be used with the Bambibucket as extinguishing agents at home and abroad, the largest fire fighting operation was with three Super Puma in Israel. Three helicopters are currently stationed for the Swisscoy in support of KFOR in Kosovo. Or are used in large-scale events for relief abroad (e.g. Sumatra after the tsunami). For the Federal Office of Public Health, National Emergency Operations Centre and the Air Force conducts regular ENSI with helicopters and F-5 by air data collection and radioactivity measurements. With F-5 as part of the ARES program parabolic flights in favor of the ETH Zurich and other research institutions are carried out. In addition, the Air Force modified all-diplomatic clearance requests that are filed outside the opening times of the FOCA and represents the REGA (Swiss Air Rescue) communication systems available. The air base command 13 of Meiringen care in his office in addition to the resources of the Belp LTDB the aircraft stationed there by the Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA).[31]

Inventory[edit]

Aircraft[edit]

Anti-aircraft[edit]

Oerlikon Skyguard
Image Name Origin Type In service Notes
Flab.JPG Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon   Switzerland AAA gun 50 a.k.a. "Flab Kanone 63/90"
Stinger (dummy) and case.png FIM-92 Stinger  United States MANPAD infrared guided missile 300
Rapier Missile.JPG Rapier missile  United Kingdom surface-air guided missile 50 a.k.a. "Mobile Lenkwaffen Flugabwehr"

[32] [33] [34] [35]

Historical inventory[edit]

Old Radar Systems[edit]

FLORIDA EZ at Fliegermuseum Dübendorf
Image System Origin Entered
service
WFU Notes
Florida Radar.JPG FLORIDA Airspace monitoring and management system  United States 1970 2003
SF Radar.JPG SRF Airspace monitoring and management system  France 1955 1970
Radar WW2.JPG LGR-1 Radar  United States 1948 1955
WW2 Radar mobil.JPG Target allocation radar TPS-1E  United States
(licensed) Italy
1958 1989
Superfledermaus.JPG Super Fledermaus   Switzerland 1965 1977
ZZR Radar.JPG Fire control radar Mark VII  United Kingdom 1958 1967

Previous anti-aircraft systems[edit]

Image System Origin Entered
service
WFU Notes
Oerlikon-20mm-batey-haosef-2-1.jpg Oerlikon 20 mm cannon   Switzerland 1937 1992 (L Flab Kan 37).
Oerlikon-20mm-batey-haosef-2-1.jpg Oerlikon 20 mm cannon   Switzerland 1954 1995 (L Flab Kan 54 Oe).
BL-64.JPG Bristol Bloodhound  UK 1964 1999 Flab Lwf BL 64 Bloodhound

Swiss anti-aircraft systems trialled[edit]

A number of air defence systems have been offered by Swiss companies and trialled by the Swiss Air Force but in the event not purchased.

Image System Origin Entered
service
WFU Notes
Fliegerabwehrpanzer 68 SPAAG pic03-1.JPG Fliegerabwehrpanzer 68   Switzerland 1958 1964
RSA Seite.JPG RSA Missile   Switzerland 1946 1958
Lenkwaffensystem RSCD Doppelstartlafette front.JPG RSD 58   Switzerland 1952 1958
Oerlikon Kriens Luftabwehr im Fliegermuseum Dübendorf.jpg RSE Kriens (Missile)   Switzerland 1958 1966
Shark Air def.JPG Mowag Shark   Switzerland  United Kingdom
 France
1981 1983 with French Crotale (missile)
or British twin AAA "wildcat" 2×30mm.

Aerobatic team[edit]

The Swiss Air Force has a jet aerobatic team, the Patrouille Suisse, which uses six Northrop F-5E in a red and white livery; the aircraft have been fitted with smoke generators. The air force also has the PC-7 Team that uses nine standard Pilatus PC-7s turboprop trainers.

Display aircraft[edit]

The air force displays single aircraft at air shows and events in both Switzerland and abroad, for example an F/A-18 Hornet will perform a solo display.[36] The Super Puma Display Team leads with a Super Puma or Cougar in front of the flight performance of the public. Also the Parachute Reconnaissance Company 17 who jump out of Pilatus PC-6 are often part of such shows.

Aircraft serial numbering[edit]

The Swiss Air Force military aircraft are identified by a role prefix and number, the prefix or code identifies the role and the serial numbers the type or variant, the system was introduced in 1936.[37][38]

Letter code

The letter or letters give the role of the aircraft.

Guide to aircraft role identification
Code letter Role Example
A Ausbildung = Trainer Pilatus PC-21: A-101
B Bomber De Havilland D.H.98 Mosquito: B-5
C Communication Pilatus PC-9: C-403
D Drohne = Drone ADS-95: D-108
J Jäger = Fighter F/A-18C: J-5001
KAB Kampfbeobachtung = "Battlefield observation" Hiller UH-12: KAB-101
R Reconnaissance Diamond DA42: R-711
T Transport Dassault Falcon 900: T-785
U Umschulung = "Advanced trainer" BAe Hawk: U-1251
V Verbindung = Liaison Pilatus PC-6: V-622
Z Zieldrohne = Target drone Farner/RUAG KZD-85: Z-30

This is followed by a number having from two to four digits.

Four-digit numbers

The first digit identifies the aircraft type. The next three are for the sub-type and the individual aircraft, with the first and sometimes second for the subtype; and the third and sometimes fourth for the individual aircraft, In the following examples, "x" identifies the individual aircraft:

  • Mirage IIIBS = J-200x
  • Mirage IIIDS = J-201x
  • Mirage IIIRS = R-21xx
  • Mirage IIIC = J-22xx
  • Mirage IIIS = J-23xx
  • F-5E = J-30xx (serials previously used for the FFA P-16)
  • F-5F = J-32xx
Three-digit numbers

Most aircraft have three numbers. These follow a broadly similar pattern to the four-digit numbers, although there are exceptions.

Transport aircraft have a first digit of 3 for helicopters and 7 for fixed wing aircraft.

Two-digit numbers

Target drones have only two numbers.

Axalp[edit]

With the threat of the Second World War and the possible need for the army and civilian population to retreat into the mountains (Reduie) Guisan, it was clear that the Air Force needed the ability to attack enemy ground forces in the mountains. To practice this Axalp was selected. After the Second World War ground attack by Vampire, Venom and Hunter jet aircraft was practiced at Axalp, including cannon and napalm bomb exercises. During the Cold War, military liaison officers from western, eastern and non-aligned nations were invited to the screenings. Nowadays Axalpfliegerschiessen ("Airshow Axalp") is a performance by the Swiss Air Force in the mountains for anyone interested. It is the only event where civilians (regardless of nationality) can see an airshow at 1,700 m (5,600 ft) above sea level and see the live use of aircraft cannons. The use of helicopters in the mountains and at high altitudes, search & rescue and firefighting demonstrations have become a large part of the Axalp air show.[39][40] Because of the AIR 14 airshow, there will be no Axalp air force live fire event in 2014.

100th Anniversary[edit]

In 2014, the Swiss Air Force celebrates its 100th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the Patrouille Suisse and the 25th anniversary of the PC 7Team. The main focus of the celebration will be an airshow Air14 at Payerne (30–31 August & 6–7 September).[41]

See also[edit]

  • Bambini-Code - a tactical radio code used from the 1940s to the 1990s

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Air Forces Monthly, p. 67.
  2. ^ a b "The Pioneers". History. Swiss Air Force. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  3. ^ "The Second World War". History. Swiss Air Force. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  4. ^ "Swiss Morane". WW2 in color. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
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  7. ^ Lombardi, p.45.
  8. ^ a b Air Forces Monthly, p. 70.
  9. ^ Air Forces Monthly, p. 69
  10. ^ "Swiss Hornets reach 50,000 flight hours milestone". MilAvia Press. 2008-10-24. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  11. ^ a b c d Air Forces Monthly, p. 68
  12. ^ Air Forces Monthly, p. 74.
  13. ^ "Evaluation Partial Tiger Replacement (TTE)". Swiss Air Force. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  14. ^ "Schweiz köper 22 Jas Gripen" (Swedish). Sveriges Television, 30 November 2011.
  15. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "Switzerland picks Gripen for F-5 replacement deal." Flightglobal, 30 November 2011.
  16. ^ Wall, Robert. "Gripen Beats Rafale, Typhoon for Swiss." Aviation Week, 1 December 2011.
  17. ^ "Sweden to buy 40-60 next generation Saab Gripen jets." Reuters, 25 August 2012.
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  19. ^ Trimble, Stephen. "Swiss selection makes Saab Gripen an export 'ace'." Flight Global, 30 November 2011.
  20. ^ "Schweiz vidare med Gripen-affär (Switzerland moves forward with Gripen deal)." Svenska Dagbladet, 25 August 2012.
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  23. ^ FACTS. 30 June 2009. p. 20. 
  24. ^ a b Air Forces Monthly, p. 73.
  25. ^ "Swiss fighters grounded during hijacking as outside office hours". news.yahoo.com. AFP. 17 February 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  26. ^ http://rt.com/news/swiss-fighters-office-hours-514/
  27. ^ Air Forces Monthly, p.66–74.
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  35. ^ Source: Swiss Armed Forces - Air Force assets (p. 12)
  36. ^ http://www.lw.admin.ch/internet/luftwaffe/en/home/verbaende/einsatz_lw/kunstflugteam/solodisplay.html
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  39. ^ http://www.sentiero.ch/en72_axalp_swiss-air-force.htm
  40. ^ http://www.lw.admin.ch/internet/luftwaffe/en/home/verbaende/einsatz_lw/flpl_kdo_mei/fliegerschiessen_axalp.html
  41. ^ http://www.lw.admin.ch/internet/luftwaffe/en/home/themen/100jahre.html

Bibliography[edit]

  • Force Report: Swiss Air Force, Air Forces Monthly magazine in association with Air Forces Intelligence - The Online Air Arms Database, September 2009 issue.
  • Andrade, John (1982). Militair 1982. London: Aviation Press. ISBN 0-907898-01-7. 
  • Lombardi, Fiona (2007). The Swiss Air Power: Wherefrom? Whereto?. Zürich University. ISBN 978-3-7281-3099-0. 
  • Roman Schürmann: Helvetische Jäger. Dramen und Skandale am Militärhimmel. Rotpunktverlag, Zürich 2009, ISBN 978-3-85869-406-5.
  • Armasuisse Centauer, AT: Diamond Air .

External links[edit]