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Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe) - Modernization

Switzerland's own development of combat aircraft was discontinued in 1958 after the termination of Projects P-16 and N-20. In 1964 the procurement of the Mirage fighter (Mirage IIIS in operation until 1999) caused a scandal due to the severe budget overrun involved. Head of the Air Force Etienne Primault, Chief of the General Staff Jakob Annasohn and Defence Minister Paul Chaudet sooner or later all had to resign or left prematurely. What followed was the complete restructuring of the Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence Force effective as of February 1, 1968. This led to a separation of users and procurement officials. Air Force, Air Base Logistics and Anti-Aircraft Defence were converted into brigades, and the Armed Forces Meteorological Group and Avalanche Rescue Service were assigned to the Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Command. Today's Parascout Company was established in 1969.

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. The purchase of 160 British Hawker Hunter jets was an exception in Swiss military aviation history. They were bought without major hick-ups during the evaluation process, for a relatively low price.

The scuffle over the acquisition of Mirage fighter jets from France in the early 1960s saw massive overspending which led to a sizeable reduction in orders and ultimately to the resignation of the defence minister. The Mirage scandal went beyond military history. A more realistic policy replaced concepts of armed forces with offensive potential. The scandal also prompted a reform of the procurement system, which became more professional and transparent. By 1969 Switzerland 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.

1972 was the year of historic major maneuvers, with 22,000 participants, and also of the zero decision by the Swiss cabinet concerning the proposed procurement of a new ground support aircraft. The evaluation proceedings forming the basis for the decision between the American LTV A-7 Corsair II ground attack aircraft and the French Dassault Milan fighter-bomber caused a rift within the Air Force.

Time and again the Swiss Air Force has found itself at the mercy of the politicians. No other branch of the armed forces stirs up such strong feelings as the Air Force. The most recent example of this is the 1993 referendum aimed at preventing the procurement of 34 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet interceptor aircraft. As in 1912, however, the people decided in favor of their Air Force. …and so YES to 34 FA-18 Hornets.

Submitting the popular initiative “No new combat aircraft”, which demanded a moratorium on the purchase of any combat aircraft until 31 December 2019, the Group for Switzerland without Armed Forces GSoA wanted to prevent the Confederation from procuring new combat aircraft to replace the obsolete Northrop F-5 Tiger II (Tiger-Teilersatz TTE) aircraft. The collection of signatures began on 10 June 2008 and ended in May 2009, and the initiative was submitted to the Federal Chancellery on 8 June 2009 with 107,828 authenticated signatures.

The Dassault Mirage IIIRS scout was decommissioned at the end of 2003, it is no longer active in the Swiss Armed Forces. The remaining 13 aircraft were auctioned on 26 November 2004 in Buochs (canton of Nidwalden). The Mirage reconnaissance pilots were called up by radio with AMIR (Aufklärer-Mirage), which is why this version is known as AMIR.

Since the 1960s, the Swiss Air Force operated three versions of the Mirage III combat aircraft (interceptor, scout and the two-seaters BS or DS). The Mirage fleet comprising a total of 61 machines was procured for the Swiss Air Force in several instalments from 1965 to 1983.

By the end of 1999, 29 Mirage IIIS fighter aircraft were already decommissioned. 14 of these machines were dismantled. The spare parts obtained were used for further operation of the remaining Mirage III fleet. The two-seaters IIIBS and IIIDS were finally decommissioned as well.

Procurement and fielding of the reconnaissance version of the Mirage IIIRS was carried out together with the Mirage IIIS. The difference however lies in equipment and operation of the RS types. Various, very capable sequential high resolution cameras are built into the rear fuselage of the reconnaissance aircraft. An infrared line scanner can be carried in a centreline pod.

At low level flights over enemy territory, this equipment allows the photographic detection of deployment axes, troop movement and battle areas. The analysis of these reconnaissance pictures provides the political and military leadership with valuable information for their assessment of the situation. To this day, the 16 Mirage reconnaissance aircraft have proven very successful in service with Squadron 10. In the frame of combat effectiveness enhancement, the Mirage IIIRS aircraft were equipped with canard fins and received new camouflage colors.

The first two Puma TH06 helicopters that are part of a modernization programme for the Swiss air force’s helicopter fleet were officially received in Emmen Monday 02 April 2012 by Armasuissse. The new choppers are equipped with: a modern Flight Management System, two global position systems (GPS), inertia navigation system, modern digital card system, anti-collision alert system, and new radio (police, encryption and satellite transmission) systems. The two are part of a fleet of 15 that is being re-equipped over three years. They were bought in two batches, from 1987-89 and 1991-93, but once modernized the fleet will be equipped to last another 15 years and should be comparable to the Cougar transport helicopters also used by Armasuisse.

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Page last modified: 31-05-2017 15:02:42 ZULU