Swiss Air Force

Swiss Air Force

The Swiss Air Force ("Schweizer Luftwaffe", "Forces aériennes suisses", "Forze Aeree Svizzere") is the air component of the Swiss Armed Forces. It was established on July 31, 1914 but did not become a separate service until 1936, and an independent service separate from the Army until 1 January 1996.

A report in the Swiss news magazine FACTS reveals that the Swiss Air Force only provides ready-to-take-off aircraft during office hours – on working days. The air force staff declared that, due to financial limits, they are not operational all the time. [FACTS No. 06/30 - Page 20] The difficulty of defending Swiss airspace is illustrated by the mountainous character and the small size of the country; the maximum extension of Switzerland is 348 km, a distance that can be flown in little over 20 minutes by commercial aircraft. Further, Switzerland's policy of neutrality means that they are unlikely to be deployed elsewhere.

The Swiss Air Force has been traditionally a militia-based service, including its pilots, with an inventory of approximtely 400-500 aircraft whose lengthy service lives (many for more than 30 years) overlapped several eras. Beginning with its separation from the Army in 1996, however, the Air Force has been down-sizing, now approximating 270 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and moving more towards a smaller, professionalized force.

Its primary front-line air-defence fleet consists of 33 F-18 Hornets (Squadrons: 11, 17, 18. 34 were originally bought, but one crashed) and 54 remaining F-5 Tiger IIs (110 were originally purchased). In 2010 the Swiss Air Force intends to begin the retirement of the F-5 in the three squadrons (Patrouille Suisse, 8th, 19th) that use it and hopes to acquire a New Warplane/Neues Kampfflugzeug (NFK) as replacement. As with the earlier F/A-18 procurement conducted in the late 1990s, this is expected to prove a politically fraught procurement due to Switzerland's socialist, anti-army and green groups, which are all opposed to such purchases. The Patrouille Suisse will need to change to a new aircraft, either the F/A-18 Hornet or the new fighter. The Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and the Saab Gripen are being considered, with Boeing announcing on 1 May 2008, that it was removing the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet from further consideration.

In 2011 the Swiss Air Force will also be retiring its fleet of 60 Aérospatiale Alouette III, which will be replaced by Eurocopter EC-635s. The first EC-635 was delivered on 12 March 2008. [ [ Swiss military aviation OrBat] ]

The national aerobatic demonstration team of Swiss Air Force is the Patrouille Suisse, which flies the F-5 Tiger II aircraft.


The history of Swiss military aviation begins in 1900 with the creation of an observation balloon force that was eventually abolished in 1938. After trials with civilian aircraft, a rudimentary air force was established in 1914, coinciding with the outbreak of World War I. Suffering from a lack of modern equipment, funding and attention by the military leadership, the air force played no part in the defence of neutral Switzerland during World War I and had little or no military value during the 1910s and 1920s.

This changed dramatically during the 1930s. Concerned with the fast-growing threat of modern air warfare and propelled by increasing popular support, caused in part by fear over the rise of fascism in nearby countries, the government decided to embark on a rapid and thorough programme of modernisation. Some 450 modern aircraft were built or acquired up until 1940, including 90 state-of-the-art Me-109 from Germany, and a network of air defence positions was constructed. This consumed a billion Swiss francs over the course of the decade, a staggering amount for the time. The air force became an independent branch of the armed forces in 1936.


*Blériot XI
*Fokker C.V
*EKW Häfeli DH5
*EKW C35
*EKW C36
*Morane-Saulnier M.S.405
*Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun
*Messerschmitt Bf 109
*Fieseler Storch
*P-51 Mustang
*T-6 Texan
*De Havilland Vampire
*De Havilland Venom
*Dornier Do27H
*Hawker Hunter
*Dassault Mirage III
*Northrop F-5E Tiger II
*Aérospatiale Alouette III
*Super Puma / Cougar
*Eurocopter Dauphin
*BAE Hawk - jet trainer
*Pilatus PC-6 Porter
*Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer
*Pilatus PC-9
*Pilatus PC-21
*Boeing F/A-18C Hornet
*Pilatus PC-12
*Dassault Falcon 50
*Cessna 560XL
*Learjet 35A
*Beechcraft B300C King Air
*Beechcraft 1900D
*DHC-6 Twin Otter

On Order

* 2 Eurocopter EC 135 - for VIP transport [ [ Swiss military aviation OrBat] ]
* 18 Eurocopter EC 635 - to replace the Alouette IIIs from 2010 [ [ Swiss military aviation OrBat] ]
* 6 Pilatus PC-21 - for advanced flying training [ [ Swiss military aviation OrBat] ]


The Swiss Air Force has nine air bases, the most important of these being Payerne, in western Switzerland. The others are the helicopter base at Alpnach, a dormant base at Buochs and several other bases at Bern, Dübendorf, Emmen, Meiringen, Sion and Locarno. However, the air force closed Mollis by January 2007, and Alpnach will be reduced in size.

See also

* Swiss air defense


External links

* [ Official website]

European topic
title = Air Forces in Europe
suffix = _Air_Force
countries_only=yes |UK_only=yes

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