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Hawker Hunter F.58A J-4029, at the RCAF Museum, Trenton, Ontario, Canada, circa 2007. Note the RWR bulges in the nose.

The Swiss Air Force evaluated the Hunter in 1957 against the US North American F-86 Sabre and British Folland Gnat, in a comparative flyoff held in the United Kingdom. They liked the Hunter and performed a further evaluation in Switzerland with two machines on loan. They ordered 100 Hunter Mk.58 (similar to Mk.6), in January 1958. This was the first of four contracts involving a total of 160 Hunters, while the local project FFA P-16 was dropped, ending Swiss efforts to build an indigenous fighter.


The first 12 Hawker were F.Mk 6s ex-RAF (built in 1956), upgraded to Mk.58 standard by the Swiss HAL factory; the others(J-4013 to 4100) were of new production. Deliveries took place from 3 April 1958 to 1st April 1960. The Swiss machines featured T.7-style brake chutes , Swiss-specified radios, and stronger outboard stores pylons that could carry french 400 kilogram (880 pound) bombs. Apparently nose ballast had to be added to permit carriage of the heavier warload. The initial 12 F.6s, which were provided ahead of the production machines to get Swiss pilots up to speed on their new mounts, were returned to the UK for update to F.58 specification.[1].

The new fighters were used as interceptors, with a secondary ground-attack capability. From 1963, half of them were wired for two AIM-9 Sidewinder air to air missiles on the outboard pylons. A T.66 was borrowed for a while, but the SAF did not place any order for two-seat Hunters. Another batch of 30 Hunters came with the second contract, signed in 1971. They were Mk.58A, serials from J-4101 to 4130. The deliveries took place from 7 December 1971 to 13 April 1973.

The Hunter survived the procurement efforts of several aircraft promising to be superior; in the case of the Dassault Mirage III this was due to excessive cost overruns and poor project management rather than the attributes of the Hunter itself. A second competition between the Mirage III, Fiat G.91YS (S stands for Switzerland, a proposed version equipped with 2 extra pylons for Sidewinder missiles) and the A-7G Corsair II concluded with neither winning a contract.

Therefore, 22 F.Mk.58As came with the third contract, signed in 1973 (serial 4131-4152 delivered from 10 January 1974 to February 1975) and the last eight (all T.Mk 68, serials 4201-4208) were bought with the fourth contract (1974; deliveries occurred between 2 August 1974 to 3 June 1975). The majority of these 60 Hunter Mk.58/68 were actually Mk.4s (built in 1955-56), a few were Mk.6s and two were T.Mk.7s (formerly of the Dutch Air Force, converted to Mk.58A single-seat). The dual-seaters were four Mk.4 and four Mk.50 (ex-Swedish Air Force), converted to single seat fighters.[2] . All the Mk.58As were fitted with the Avon 207. The Mk.58 were refitted with those engine, replacing their Avon 203.[3]


A rare T.68 dual-seat Hunter, Berlin 2010

The Swiss Hunters had some important upgrades, known as KAWEST (frrom Kampfwertsteigerung - German: "Increased Operational Performance"). The Sidewinder was one of the first and most important, though it is not known if the F Mk 58A received them. The T.68s received improved Martin-Baker ejection seats, while the single-seat Mk.58/58A, were equipped from 1974 with SAAB BT-9K bombsights recovered from the de Havilland Venoms, except for 12 aircraft that were used as target tugs (with a Swiss tow/winch unit under the wing's pylon). It is not known if the T.68s were wired for Sidewinders and equipped with BT-9K. They still had two Aden cannon, so the firepower was enough for a first line duty.

A characteristic of Swiss Hunters was the adoption of the powerful SURA and SNORA 80 mm rockets, up to 32 can be loaded in underwing rails. They had an 4.5 kg HEAT warhead capable of penetrating up to 400 mm, or be equipped with a 7 kg HE-Frag warhead, among the 12 versions available.

The Hunter 80 program: note the ECM bulges in the nose, antennas under the belly and ALE-39 in the side

The most important upgrade was the 'Hunter 80' program. It was carried out in the early 1980s, with a US-built AN/APR-9 Radar Warning Receiver in the nose and AN/ALE-39 chaff-flare dispensers inside modified collector bins. Another underwing rocket-launch rail was added, raising the total from 8 to 10. The Hunters were also equipped with BL755 cluster bombs, and 42 of them (all Mk.58) had the modern AGM-65 Maverick, typically a pair under the wings, while a useful load (12-20) of rockets could still be carried. Some sources[who?] claim that the Paveway laser guided bombs, were used but if so, the target designation was provided by ground troops.[citation needed]

Some T.Mk 68s had T-708 Vista ECM pods for training and ECM missions. This pod had both jammers and chaffs. It was installed under the wings and was controlled by the right-hand seater. Another improvement was the brake-parachute.[4]


Hunters and Mirage flying in close formation

The very first new-build F.58 delivered was put straight into service with the "Gruppe fuer Ruestungdienste", a civilian test organization, and remained there for the rest of its career. It retained its RAF colors along with bright dayglow red edging around its wing, along its spine and tailfin, and on its nose, plus camera-calibration circles divided into black and white quadrants alongside nose and tail and an oversized bright gentian violet painted underneath.

As the Hunter weren't really well fitted as interceptors (laking a proper radar and being subsonic), Swiss Air Force bought from United Kingdom a complete SAM defence system. It replaced the older missiles previously built in Switzerland, and was based on 64 Bristol Bloodhound launchers, deployed in six SAM sites[5] . So the high-altitude air defence was assured by those long range and accurate missiles, while the low-medium altitudes could be better covered by Hunters. The Mirage acquisition apparently solved the problem, but the Bloodhound (known locally as BL-84) lasted in service until the late '90s.

A portion of the Swiss Hunter fleet was held in reserve as "sleeper squadrons", with the aircraft stowed in special hangers that were dug into the sides of mountains. The aircraft were suspended from the ceiling on cables, and as far as sketchy accounts go they would use special sections of highway for takeoffs and landings if it came to a shooting match.[6]. The last of such exercises was held in 1991, with 8 Hunter Mk.58 and 8 F-5 involved. It was called 'Strada' and requested the demolition of the side protections (Guard rails) for a lenght of 3 km (130 tons), in order to make possible the aircraft operations[7]. The major limitation was the width of the highway, only 24 meters instead 40 (the standard for Swiss airstrips).

Patrouille Suisse, Payerne, 1991

Swiss Hunters were the mount for the Patrouille Suisse flight demonstration team, with smoke generators that fed diesel and dye into the engine exhaust. The group was officially formed on 22 august 1964 with four machines, went to five in 1970 and then six in 1978. They originally flew in standard colors but later featured an imaginative red-and-white color scheme on their bellies.

By 1975, plans were laid to replace the Hunter in the air-to-air role with a more modern fighter aircraft, the Northrop F-5E Tiger II.[8] The Hunter remained in a key role within the Swiss Air Force; like the RAF's Hunter it transitioned to be the country's primary ground attack fighter (operating from 100 to 300 meters in peacetime, but even less in case of war); and would remain in this role until the Swiss government purchased 32 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets as replacements in the late 1990s.[9].

In 1990, there were still 9 Staffel (Squadrons) with 130 Hunters: 2st at Ulrichen, 3nd at Ambri, 5st at Raron, 7th at Interlaken, 9st at Raron, 15st at St.Stephen, 20st at Mollis, 21st at Turtman, 22st at Ulrichn and St.Stephen (with T.68s). They were almost the half of the first line (19 squadrons, 6 with F-5s and 3 with Dassault Mirage IIIS/RS), while one more was used by the experimental aicraft unit. [10]

The Hunter F.Mk.58A were phased out first, as there were problems with the wing's structure. The last Swiss Hunters were phased out of service in 1994. That was a year earlier than planned, but the Hunters were becoming too expensive to maintain. Towards the end of their time, some were given very interesting color schemes, the most striking being the "Paper Plane" of Fliegerstaffel 15. This machine was painted all-white and marked with the squadron and aircrew names in nice typewriter fonts, and the left underwing Swiss insignia featured a white cross modified to look like a 'paper airplane'.

The first Swiss Hunter J-4001, armed with Sidewinders

Overall, the Swiss Hunters had a very active career lasting over 30 years[1]. Many of first contract Hunters flew 2,400-2,500 hours, but several of them logged 2,700 hrs and few 2,800. The most active was the J-4023, that logged 2,860 hours with 1,567 landings (the average mission time seems over 1-1.5 hours, despite the short endurance of the Hunter). The first batch was the most used, while the '70 fighters/trainers topped around 1,200-1,500 hrs each. As British aviation writer John Lake put it: If the Hunter had not existed, the Swiss would have had to invent it.

Among the 160 Hunters there were 32 write off/crashes (with 14 pilots killed), but the overall activity topped over 313,508 hrs, so it was a very good result (around 10 losses/100,000 hrs) for a '50s fighter. One Hunter, the 4051, was accidentally shot down by the 4171, crossing its gunfire line during a 'live' exercise (20 October 1982). The pilot bailed out and, ironically, for some time the 4171 received a painted Hunter' 'kill'. Another one was endagered by fog, but managed to land with only 50 liters still aboard (of 1,773)[11] , equivalent to 40 seconds at 'full throttle', as the Avon remained still a quite thirsty engine.[12] The issues raised by 'real' ammunitions used in training forbidded to use the full load of Aden ammunitions, so Hunters and Hawks usually used only the half of ammunitions or the half of the Adens, in order to recover (instead to eject) the spent cartridges.[13]

The last flight was performed by the J-4001, the first 'Swiss' Hunter that opened and closed the Hunter service in Switzerland. It was born as Mk.6, the XE536, delivered to RAF on 23 February 1956and modified by HAL in 1957-58. Flew as Mk.58 on 29th March 1958 with Hans Häfliger, it was delivered to Emmen on 3 April 1958, serving with 7 and 20th Staffel. The last flight took place on 16th December 1994 at Dübendorf, totalizing 2,541.17 hrs and 1,330 landings. Today the J-4001 is restored in '60s conditions (without braking parachute and other modifications) and preserved at Fliegermuseum Dübendorf, from August 2002.[14]

From 1994 to present[edit]

J-4040 'Papyrus' at Payerne, 2004

Originally all the Swiss Hunters, except for a handful to be donated to museums or used for gate guards and the like, were to scrapped in accordance with strict Swiss rules about exporting weapons. However, there was a loophole in the law in that while Switzerland could not sell the aircraft, they could be given away, and dozens of Swiss Hunters ended up in private hands.[15] It was actually cheaper to give them away than scrap them, though it seems likely the end users had to cover costs associated with the transfer.

The Swiss Hunters were well regarded and conserved, and they are an important part of the surviving Hunters. According to Swisshunter site, today no less but 34 are still active, many others are conserved. Several Hunters are used in North America, one is even used by a private contractor for the French Navy (the J-4073, used by Apache Aviation). Many others are owned by aviation companies like ATAC and Hunter Aviation International Inc, Newark, USA. A British company, the Hunter team, [16], got 12 Mk.58. Its Hunter fleet is claimed capable to perform missions with speed up to mach 0.95, up -3.75/+7.5G for 90 minutes at 185 km from the base, simulating air to air and air to surface threats for military costumers, with low operational costs compared to modern fighters. Lortie Aviation is another costumer of the former Swiss Hunters [17] and claims to have flown 8,500 hours since 2002, with military missions lasting up to 2.5 hrs (with four auxiliary tanks). There is also a Hunter swiss civil association, Amici dell', that perform acrobatic activities.

Some of the last Swiss Hunters are available for 'jet-tourism'. The cost is around 6,900 euros for a 40 minutes flight.[18]

Up to 30 other Mk.58/68s are still conserved in museums scattered in Europe, North America, South Africa and Jordan.


  1. ^ [ "Swiss Hunter informations site"] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  2. ^ [ "Swiss Hunter informations site"] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Swiss Hunter on MRG's site". Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  4. ^ [ "Swiss Hunter informations site"] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Anselmino, Federico: 'Fliegertruppen', A&D Magazine, Rome, June 1990 p. 21-23
  6. ^ Anselmino, Federico: 'Fliegertruppen', A&D Magazine, Rome, June 1990 p. 21-23
  7. ^ Bonzanigo, C.A.: Aerei in autostrada, A&D Magazine, Rome, March 1991 p.26-29
  8. ^ Martin 1996, p. 322.
  9. ^ Senior 2003, pp. 33-34, 74.
  10. ^ Anselmino, Federico: 'Fliegertruppen', A&D Magazine, Rome, June 1990 p. 21-23
  11. ^ The illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft, Aerospace Publishing Ltd, italian version printed by De Agostini, Novara, 1982, p.247
  12. ^ [ "Swiss Hunter site"] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Anselmino, Federico: Fliegertruppen, A&D Magazine, Rome, June 1990 p. 21-23
  14. ^ [ "Swiss Hunter site"] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  15. ^ "Swiss Hunter on MRG's site". Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  16. ^ the hunter
  17. ^ Lortie aviation
  18. ^ " site". Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  • Martin, Stephen. The Economics of Offsets: Defence Procurement and Countertrade. Routledge, 1996. ISBN 3-71865782-1.
  • Senior, Tim. The Air Forces Book of the F/A-18 Hornet. Zenith Imprint, 2003. ISBN 0-94621969-9
  • Anselmino, Federico: 'Fliegertruppen', A&D Magazine, Rome, June 1990 p. 21-23
  • The illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft, Aerospace Publishing Ltd, italian version printed by De Agostini, Novara, 1982, p.244-252
  • War Machine Encyclopedia, italian version printed by De Agostini, Novara, 1985, p.1124-27 (Hunter general description and main versions)

Category:Hawker aircraft