Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe)
The Air Force is led by its Commander-in-Chief Air Force. His subordinates are the Chief of Training, the Chief Operational Staff, and CEO of the Air Force Logistic Organization. In contrast to the battalions of the Land Force, all battalions and squadrons are basically subordinated to the Air Force Training Command, which consists of three units.229 If an operation is due, the squadrons and bat-talions are subordinated to the Operational Staff, having operational command over all operations of the Air Force. The Air Force Logistic Organization is responsible for supply and maintenance of Air Force material. Regional and particular interests have prevented merging all logistics under a single organization.
The beginnings of military aviation in Switzerland can be traced back to the year 1891, when the General Staff considered the procurement of a captive balloon. With the purchase approved, a group of volunteers reported for duty at the first Airship Recruit School in Bern in 1900. 12 years later, the Swiss Officers' Association called for public donations to help fund military aviation in Switzerland. The result - 1.7 million Swiss Francs - surpassed all expectations. The authorities, however, proved rather reluctant in adopting these new ideas.
In 1914, at the outbreak of the Great War, Switzerland built her first military air force, enlisting some private pilots who had already been flying successfully. Eight aircraft of six different types were assembled at Berne. During the war this little air force carried out 40,100 flights with a heterogenous collection of aircraft, some built later in Switzerland being added to the nucleus. In the years after the war some batches of surplus Fokker D. VIIs, Hanriot HD.ls, Nieuport 28C.ls and Zeppelin C.IIs (the last named built by the famous airship works) were purchased, while the Federal Aircraft Works at Thun produced its own Hafeli DH.3 and DH.5 observation biplanes in considerable numbers. The late twenties saw the introduction of Dewoitine D.27 fighters and Fokker C.V-E observation biplanes, both types being built under licence in Switzerland.
At the beginning of the Second World War the Fliegertruppe consisted of 224 front-line aircraft, of which only the 30 Messer- schmitt MelO9E-3s were of contemporary design. A further batch of 50 more Messerschmitts were delivered between October 1939 and April 1940, together with the first licence-built D-38OO, a Swiss version of the Morane-Saulnier M.S.406. In the following years Switzerland served as a sanctuary for many damaged Allied aircraft. No fewer than 154 American B-17 and B-24 bombers crowded the Diibendorf Airfield at the end of the war. A total of 253 aircraft landed or crashed in Switzerland.
After World War II, the Swiss did not have a clear long-term concept for aircraft procurement. Procurement politics between 1946 and 1972 were a zigzag course. The manufacturers created unrealistic expectations regarding the material and developing costs. The distribution of the development potential of three aircraft plants was not suitable for creating a breakthrough for the Swiss aircraft industry. On 23 September 1947 and 24 March 1949 the Swiss parliament decided to buy 175 De Havilland Vampire combat aircraft. In order to have the requested 400 combat aircraft, the Swiss government negotiated with De Havilland to purchase one hundred DH-112 Venom in 1950.
The N-20 Aiguillon (Sting) was ordered by the Military Department in May 1948. The F+W in Emmen began work on this ambitious, radically innovative new fighter. The N-20 was a tailless, swept-wing airplane reminiscent of the United States Navy's Vought F7U. A three-fifths scale demonstrator flew successfully in 1951. The Federal Council decided due to problems with its engines, to cancel the development in 1952.
The Swiss firm Flug und Fahrzeugwerke Altenrhein AG (FFA) developed a combat aircraft for the Swiss Air Force. The aircraft, known as the P-16, first flew in April 1955 and achieved supersonic flight for the first time in August 1956. The Swiss government was sufficiently impressed with the P-16 that an order for 100 airframes was placed in 1958. Unfortunately, the crash of two prototypes caused the order to be suspended. While the cause of the accident was a relatively minor defect in the aircraft's hydraulic system that was easily corrected, the Swiss government remained convinced that the design was faulty and cancelled the order. In reality, the Swiss government did not mention all the other reasons for the cancellation. The P-16 became a victim of a change in the Swiss concept of aerial warfare. Unfortunately, the cancellation of the P-16 led to the Swiss aircraft industry's inability to develop a jet airplane, but its design later led to the success of the business jet called the Learjet.
Because of the pressure to replace the aging Vampire, the Federal Council decided on 29 January 1958 to buy a further one hundred airplanes that could be used for ground combat. The Swiss government selected the Hawker Hunter Mk 6, a ground attack aircraft with limited air-to-air capability.
By 1969 Siwtzerland was seeking an aircraft to replace its Air Force Venoms in the ground-support role. Though the Swiss Parliament had approved the Federal Military Depart ment proposal that final choice should lie between the LTV A-7 Corsair 2 and the Fiat G.91Y, other reasons — technical, economic and industrial among them — have made it necessary to take a fresh look at certain additional types, such as the Jaguar or Mirage 5.
By 2003 Switzerland's air force had received 34 F/A-18C/D Hornets. The first two aircraft were completed in the USA, but the remainder were assembled at the Swiss Aircraft and Systems factory near Lucerne. The air force was also seeking the $110 million Hornet 21 upgrade that will include new avionics, JMHCS, MIDS and other avionics improvements. Details were notified to the US Congress in March 2003. The Hornet superseded the Mirage III in the air-defence role, but the type remained in service as a reconnaissance platform until 2006. The F-5s would be replaced around 2010. F-5 numbers were slowly being reduced, with aircraft being sold to Brazil, the US Navy and elsewhere. In the meantime, 33 are to be upgraded by 2005. Talks were taking place with Poland for the disposal of the Hawk fleet.
The Government of Switzerland intended to purchase “Upgrade 21 Program” equipment to enhance survivability and communications connectivity and to extend the useful life of Swiss Air Force (SAF) F/A-18 aircraft. This phase of the F/A-18 "Upgrade 21 Program" will include continued procurement of 34 Fleet Retrofit Kits as follows: 6 AN/APX-111 Combined Interrogator Transponders, 6 Tactical Aircraft Moving Map Capability Systems, 5 Multi-functional Information Distribution Systems/Low Volume Terminals (Airborne Link-16), 68 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems, 36 Enhanced Interference Blanking Units and 31 Digital Communications to Wingtips. Also included will be related support and test equipment, engineering technical services, supply support, operation and maintenance training, documentation, and program management support. The estimated cost is $110 million.
This proposed sale would contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe. The SAF has extensive experience operating the F/A-18 aircraft and should have no difficulties incorporating the upgraded capabilities into its forces. The SAF needs this upgrade to keep pace with high tech advances in sensors, weaponry, and communications. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region.
Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR) Support and Commercial Derivative Aircraft Support Office Adversary Team recently completed a six year program to buy and refurbish 44 retired Swiss Air Force F-5 Freedom Fighters. These F-5N aircraft enable the Navy to fly in a dedicated adversary role until at least Fiscal Year 2015. The F-5N is a single seat, twin-engine, tactical fighter and attack aircraft providing simulated air-to-air combat training manufactured by Northrop Grumman Corporation. The F-5F is a dual-seat version, twin-engine aircraft. The F-5N/Fs are third-generation F-5 fighter aircraft designed for replacement of the F-5A/B/E production models. These aging aircraft have been replaced by low-flight-hour F-5N/F aircraft acquired from the Swiss Air Force surplus by the United States Navy (USN). As a tactical fighter aircraft, the F-5N accommodates a pilot only in a pressurized, heated and air conditioned cockpit and rocket-powered ejection seat while the F-5F is a two-seat combat- capable fighter. The Swiss F-5N Replacement Program replaced high-time Navy F-5Es with low-time F-5Ns allowing the USN/United States Marine Corps (USMC) to operate the F-5N aircraft to Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. These aircraft are assigned to Government facilities to Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, Florida, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona, and NAS Fallon, Nevada.
On 25 August 2010 the Federal Council (the Swiss government) decided not to buy any new fighter aircraft during the next few years. But on 30 November 2011 the Swiss government decided to purchase 22 Gripens as its future multirole fighter aircraft for the Swiss Air Force. The Gripen program will create a long-term partnership between Switzerland and Sweden. Saab assured Switzerland a long-term strategic industrial co-operation aimed at creating sustainable high tech jobs, transferring technology and generating export business.
The decision, based on the recommendation of Defence Minister Ueli Maurer, drew fire in the newspapers. One of the main criticisms is that the jet, which is still a prototype, might not get enough takers to ensure that it and its parts are actually available when needed. "One is bound to a manufacturer for 40 years when purchasing aircraft. But the Gripen might be discontinued if there are too few orders," pointed out the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. The La Liberté newspaper featured a political cartoon showing Maurer struggling with tools, instructions and a tower of IKEA boxes – hinting that the jets might not be the bargain they appear to be. Le Temps ran a similar cartoon.
Le Temps described Maurer as clever for selecting the more "modest and reasonable" option, noting that the Rafale would have been shot down for its "excessive" price and because of "verbal attacks and the arrogant attitude of French leaders toward Switzerland". “In opting for the Saab Gripen, the government chose a fighter jet that meets military requirements while also going for a solution that is financially acceptable for the defence ministry and for the armed forces, in both the medium and long term,” a ministry statement explained. Maurer told a media conference that the Gripen was by far the cheapest option of the three aircraft in contention. He put the total cost of the fleet of 22 aircraft at about SFr3.1 billion ($3.4 billion).
Parliament had to approve the choice before the order can be placed. Opponents of any purchase of fighter jets want the decision to be put before Swiss voters. If necessary, the pacifist group Group for Switzerland without an Army (GSoA) and the Greens say they will launch an initiative calling for a moratorium on the purchase. They had previously collected the requisite 100,000 signatures needed to call a vote on the issue, but had withdrawn it when the government announced that it would postpone buying the jets. But the opponents see a gleam of hope in Wednesday’s decision. A Green Party statement claimed that it is “an open secret” that the Gripen was bottom of the list for most members of the Air Force. “So it is conceivable that the government, which does not want to buy any fighters at the moment, chose the Gripen because it is the one with least support in parliament,” the party said.
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