BERN, (BM) – Switzerland began a 24-hour duty on its combat aircraft to control its airspace, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24. Switzerland is continuously looking for new combat aircraft, and the need for the machines at the disposal of the local armed forces will only increase. This year, the F / A-18 fleet will be responsible for protecting the country’s airspace 24 hours a day / 7 days a week, not only at selected hours, as in the past.
On December 31, Switzerland began a 24-hour duty on its combat aircraft to control its airspace. Swiss F / A-18 crews perform the tasks seven days a week and 24 hours a day. The AFP news agency emphasizes that the Government proposed a plan to increase Swiss airspace supervision to the local parliament’s deputies in 2009. However, the breakthrough was to come in the context of the analysis of high-profile events in February 2014.
In 2014, Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot, Hailemedehin Abera Tagegn, hijacked his plane, carrying 202 passengers and crew on the Addis Ababa-to-Rome route. The kidnapper finally announced that he intended to land in Geneva and ask for asylum there. On the way to Europe, after the hijacking itself, the civilian machine was accompanied by combat planes from Italy and France.
However, the Swiss air force did not pick up any aircraft [F-18 or much older F-5, which will be replaced by modern machines in the future] to intercept the device. Switzerland then clarified that combat aircraft are available only during the operating hours of the units. As a result, Switzerland’s airspace does not protect while the pilots and staff are not working [then it was Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 12:00 and 13:30 to 17:00] even though the Swiss army performed airspace monitoring 24 hours a day.
The Government planned the expansion of airspace protection after this world-famous incident. Switzerland would ultimately have two military planes at its disposal, ready for take-off 15 minutes after the alert appeared. Currently, this state was to be reached, including by increasing employment in the local air force. Almost one hundred new jobs have been created in the military to meet new opportunities in airspace protection. It is estimated that maintaining the classic two on duty will cost the Swiss federal budget about 34 million euros a year.
From the beginning of 2019, Swiss combat aircraft were operational from 6.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. From December 31, 2020, as mentioned initially, they will be ready around the clock, 365 days a year. Machines delegated to protect Swiss airspace permanently are deployed at the military airport in Payerne, and alternative airbases have been designated in Emmen and Meiringen. The operational readiness of combat aircraft in Switzerland has been extended under a project called LP24. Their operations are referred to as Quick Reaction Alert (QRA).
The Swiss also had to conduct new training for their crews and ground crews to deploy the assets of a rapid reaction air force to protect their airspace at any time of the year, day or night. Hence, as indicated in the official communication, incl. from November 24 to December 18, 2020, in Yorkshire’s British county, an exercise took place with 40 pilots, 70 ground crew members, and 10 Swiss F / A-18 aircraft. The practice was named “Yorknite” and was conducted close to the British RAF at RAF Leeming airbase. These exercises focused on improving night flights, which are now extremely important for the Swiss Air Force to be ready for 24-hour operation.
We’ve to know that night flight training is not possible in Switzerland due to altitudes, aircraft speed limitations, flight time limitations and the same saturation of civilian aircraft traffic over Switzerland. Also, several restrictions resulting from civil protection in terms of noise generated by machines flying at night. As a result, the Swiss Air Force conducts almost half of its night flight training abroad.
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