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Flieger- und Fliegerabwehr Truppen / Troupes d'Aviation Suisse / Truppe d'aviazone svizzere
Aviation and Antaircraft Troops
till 31-12-95
Schweizer Luftwaffe / Forces Aériennes Suisse / Forze aeree svizzere
Swiss Air Force
- from 01-01-96

   Credit:  Roundels of the world

                                        Last update 08-07-3028

                                                                 COLD WAR ERA                                                               
   Policing Swiss sky was the
   main peace-time duty during
    the cold war era.

   This was mainly performed by
   checking civilian aircrafts
   straying into Switzerland, like
   the Balkan AL Tupolev Tu -134
   shown here on 18-11-83; its
   flightplan had not been sub-
   mitted; it was intercepted
   within 5 minutes from entering
   Swiss territory by one Düben-
   dorf AB based Northrop F-5E
   and one Mirage IIIRS  from the
   same base.
   An additional duty was to help
   civilian aircrafts in distress.

   Photo © Swiss AF


Main experimental/test aircraft was the first Swiss built aircraft, serial J-3001, which, among many other tests, experimented the BAP-100 anti-runway bomb in Switzerland, without follow-up. Aircraft serial J-3079 was also used as a back-up.

Studies on electromagnetic impulses caused by an atomic explosion were realised at Spiez staring from September 1987 on a rig-mounted Northrop F-5E (serial J-3087). The aircraft had fully laden tanks, running engines and the pilot in the cockpit during the tests.


Advanced training

Retirement of the Hawker Hunter for advanced training meant that new pilots had to convert after basic training initially on Vampire T.55, later on Pilatus PC-7, directly to the supersonic Northrop F-5F. The sequence was definitely adopted in 1990 after an experimental class.

Normal training for pilots and ground crew took place at Dübendorf and Payerne AB, while  refresher courses (Widerholungskurse) took place at their respective war base.

In May 1982 three USAF Aggressor pilots from the 527 Squadron spent a week and in xxxxx Israeli pilots trained at Payerne AB together with Swiss Tiger pilots.

Air Force competition (AVIA Meisterschaft der Fliegertruppe/AMEF)
An yearly two/three days long competion with
ground and flying disciplines, was held at the end of August with the participation of flying and ground crews from the whole Air Force organisation, mainly at Dübendorf AB. Pilots had to take part to both ground and, according to the speciality of the Unit they were attached flying exercises. Tiger crews were present at air-to-air combat competitions; the first two Squadrons, 11 and 18, were present starting from 1980.

  Photo: unknown
                    Northrop F-5E J-3063 of the Sqn 1 in August 1982

The last Dübendorf AB held competition was in August 1995, Emmen AB hosting the competition from the following year in a much smaller frame, named as Swiss Air Force Competition, being held for the last time in 2006.

Highway emergency strips exercises
Highways were used in Switzerland as emergency recovery strips. Exercises started in 1970, at the time with de Havilland Venoms, later with Hawker Hunters and Northrop F-5s.

Pilots from Aviation Regiment 2 drove the
first Tigers (single- and doubleseaters) participating to exercise code named "Tauto" was in 1982, on March 24th, with 15 aircrafts (together with 12 Haker Hunter) landing and taking-offs on an emergency strip near Münsingen. This strip was particularly challenging as the aircrafts had to pass under an roadbridge having a clearance of only 70 cm!

                  Photo © Swiss AF

Northrop F-5F J-3206 depicted shortly after passing a curve near Münsingen on 24-03-82, a foggy day.

The next edition of "Tauto" was held on 15-10-85 on an strip near Flums by 12 Northrop F-5s coming from Alpnach AB (flown by pilots of the Aviation Regiment 3) and 12 Hawker Hunters Mk58/58A.

Tigers participated only to three additional exercises: the first code named
"Tutti" on 29-09-88 when 12 Alpnach AB based Tigers took off from a nearby highway strip; 8 Alpnach AB based Tigers participated to exercise "Nastasio" on 16-11-88 on a strip near Sion AB.
The last highway exercise, named again 
"Tauto" was on 14-11-91 near Lodrino AB with the participation of Alpnach AB based Tigers and Mollis AB based Hawker Hunter; aircrafts took off from the strip after having landed at Lodrino AB and having been towed to the highway.

  Winter landscape on 14-11-91
  during "Tauto" exercise next to
  Lodrino AB.

  Photo: unknown

The highway emergency strips concept was abandoned in 1995, after the end of the Cold War.

Sweden - exercise Tikas (Tiefflugkampagne Schweden)
Due to strict neutrality policity no combat aircraft was allowed abroad until 1977, when this policy was relaxed and the Vidsel range (in Sweden another strict neutral country) was utilised for tests by 3 GAMD Mirage IIIS as no big enough range was available in Switzerland.


 Vidsel was utilised for the second time between March 24th and June 1981, this time by 2  Dübendorf based Northrop F-5E and 2 GAMD Mirage IIIS. Live ammunition firings, missile  tests,  employment tactics and operational readiness were tested.

Two Northrop F-5E together with two Mirage IIIS were present from 18-03-86, testing Sidewinder
missiles and air-to-ground rockets.


Last Northrop F-5 deployment to Sweden, lasting three months from mid-March, with the partici-  pation of two single-, 1 two-seaters Tigers and 2 GAMD Mirage IIIS;  AGM-58B Mavericks air-to-ground missiles were launched, Swiss modified AIM-9-P4 Sidewinder  were tested against Beech  MQM-107 drones as well as air-to-air shooting against targets  towed by Swedish Saab  J-32B was exercised.

  Photo © Swiss AF

        AGM-58B Mavericks under the Northrop F-5F J-3211 wings on a test flight from Vidsel AB.



Italy - SAKA (SArdinia KAmpagne) campaigns
These campaigns started at Decimomannu AB/Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation nato range in 1985 and went on till 1989. The aim was to verify and improve air-to-air combat tacticts.

Deployment details are as follows:


Twentytwo professional pilots went to the NATO base with 5 Northrop F-5E, 1 F-5F and 6 Mirage IIIS between 04-01-85 and 18-01-85; mock combat took place between Swiss fighters only. The
base was equipped with instrumentation to analyze the combats; the results were estimated as very satisfactory.

Next round was between 18-08-86 and 30-09-86; 4 Northrop F-5E and 3 F-5F were present together
with 6 Mirage IIIS and 1 Mirage IIIDS.


This deployment , from mid-June till July 6th, was slightly bigger: 5
Northrop F-5E, 3 F-5F and 7 Mirage IIIS, 1 Mirage IIIDS.

        Badge painted undernose on aircrafts having participated to SAKA 87

Northrop F-5E J-3045 at Decimomannu on 03-07-87; on wingtip a training Sidewinder with an active head.

                                                                                                               Photo: Friedrich Becker


  Photo: Friedrich Becker
Northrop F-5F J-3207 at Decimomannu AB on 12-06-87, ACMI pod on the wingtip

Eight single- and two two-seater Tigers participated between 10-06-88 and 04-07-88 together
with five Mirage IIIS and 1 Miraged IIIDS to this edition.


  Decimomannu hosted between 16-06-89 and 03-07-89 seven Northrop F-5E, three F-5F     and five Mirage IIIS.


This exercise was set for June 1990, but was cancelled and replaced by NORKA 1990 at RAF Waddington (see below)
                                                              POST COLD WAR ERA                                                         

Trials were conducted
during the 1992/93 repetition courses of the militia Squadron 8 and professional Squadron 1 to use Northrop F-5Es as fighter-bomber using dummy bombs, rockets and AGM-95B Mavericks, but the idea to operate two Squadrons in this speciality was not pursued due to financial restrictions and partial aircraft unsuitability.

Electronic warfare training, originally carried out by two Haker Hunter T.68, was taken over by two-seater Tigers equipped with Ericsson H/I band A100 Vista 5 system and Pilatus PC-9 from 1994 with the same system.

Target towing for ground- and air-to-air gunnery was performed by Hawker Hunter Mk.58/Mk.58A till their definitive retirement in 1994. The Northrop F-5E was chosen as a successor, utilising the remaining of 10 Saab MBV-2S Dart Target that uses a 500m cable to tow an orange target, equipped with a microphone to send information on the number of hits to the towing aircraft for data analyses. Tests were done between February and the autumn of 1997 from Meiringen AB on two aircrafts, a total of 4 being later equipped with the system.

Improved communication, at the same level as the newly bought McDonnell F-18s, was reached with the installation of Have-Quick 1 technology radios during the year


United Kingdom  -  NORKA campaigns (NORdsee KAmpagne)

Training was transferred to the North Sea AMI range, aircrafts were based at RAF Waddington in the United Kingdom; these campaign lasted from 1990 till 2001 (the last year with the participation of only McDonnell F-18s), giving the possibility to train at a later stage against higher performance McDonnell F-15s and General Dynamics F-16s. 

 First badge painted undernose on aircrafts participating to NORKA exercises
participating year was painted sometimes below "Waddington".

                      Second badge painted undernose on participating aircrafts;
                      participation years (1994 to 2000) were painted below badge.


Details of Tiger participation are as follows:

NORKA 1990
Rather a modest trial exercise, between 16 and 23-11-90, with 5 Northrop F-5E and 1 F-5F participating.

NORKA 1991


 Six F-5E, three F-5F and five Mirage IIIS went to RAF Waddington on 04-10-91 for a successful
 three-weeks period. Pilots (militia and professionals) were exchanged every week; one  double-seater was replaced by another one on 18-10-91. The exercise ended on 26-10-91.

NORKA 1992
Six Northrop F-5E and 6 Mirage IIIS
went to RAF Waddington for the third edition on 05-06-92,
remaining till 29-06-92.

NORKA 1993

 Six Northrop F-5E, four F-5F and 6 Mirage IIIS
stayed at RAF Waddington beetween
 04-06-93 and 28-06-93.

NORKA 1994
The deployment took place between 03-06-94 and 27-06-94,now standardizised on six Northrop F-5E, four F-5F and six Mirage IIIS.
Combat training against foreign fighters (RAF) was allowed for the first time during this exercise.

          Photo: unknown

            Northrop F-5F J-3203 with ACMI wing pod at Waddington on 08-06-94

NORKA 1995

 Six single-, 4 double-seater F-5s and 6 Mirage IIIS left Payerne AB on June 9th to participate
 between June 12th and 30th; they exercised against RAF Tornados and Harriers. A total of 70
 professional and militia pilots were alternatively engaged.

NORKA 1996
Deployment started on 31-05-96 and ended on 24-06-96, included 8 F-5E, 4 F-5F
and 6
Mirage IIIS; two of the Mirage were replaced by 2 F-5E mid-June.

Three aircrafts remained a few days longer in UK to participate to the Mildenhall Air Fete on 25-05-96; they are depicted hereunder. Of note the red under fuselage tank on the tarmac,
used for dissimilar air combat training.

     Photo: P. Nicholson

NORKA 1997

 The exercises was from 12-05-97 till 02-06-97 with 8 F-5E, 4F-5F; one additional single-
 seater joined on 14-05-97. Opponents were RAF Tornado, USAFE F-15 and Dutch F-16s


NORKA 1998
Eight F-5E, three F-5F
participated between 29-05 and 22-06-98, together with, for the first time, 3 McDonnell F/A-18C and 3 F/A-18DThey exercised with RAF Tornados and R. Netherlands AF

NORKA 1999

 Four single- and two double-seater came to Waddington for the exercise from  01-06-99  till 18-06-99;
 6 McDonnel F/A-18C
and 2 F/A-18D  were also present.
They exercised with RAF, Royal  Navy and R. Netherlands AF aircrafts.

  Photo: unknown                                               Northrop F-5F J-3012 landing at RAF Waddington on 11-06-99

NORKA 2000
This was the last exercise to see the presence in UK of 4 F-5E, 2 F-5F
 between 22-05-00 and 16-06-00, including pilots from Squadron 19, together with 4 F/A-18C, 3 F/A-18D.
Partners/opponents were Belgian, French, RAF and USAFE aircrafts.

Norka exercises were replaced by NORAD  ones, Swiss participation involving only McDonnel Douglas F/A-18C/D. Dissimilar air combat using Northrop F-5E and F with wingtips was still exercised in Switzerland.

  Photo: Thomas Soder
Northrop J-3092 with ACMI pod on left wingtip at Sion 28-10-12

A particular joynt training, and the first one, had been the hosting at the beginning of 1979 of two Israel pilots on approximately 20 Northrop F-5F and Mirage IIIBS combat flights; this arised serious diplomatic protests by Arab diplomats.

Neutral Austria was another destination for exercises: Zeltweg AB housed between May 16th and 20th 1994 three F-5s on exercises against local Saab-35Ö.
The same exercise took place (again based at 
Zeltweg AB, but mainly against Saab J-35) one year later, from 16-08-95 till 25-08-95, with the participation of 2 single- and 2 double-seaters.

  Collaboration between the two
  countries was renewed when,
  between the 02nd and the 4th April
  2007; two Swiss Northrop F-5F
  went to Graz AB to exercise with
  Austrian Northrop F-5E from the
  2nd Staffel and with Saab 105Ö.

  Northrop F-5F J-3205 and J-3206
  armed with combat training (red)
  Sidewinders in company of Saab 105ö
  "E" yellow.

   Photo: Austrian AF/Zinner

Four Payerne AB was the  home between the 23rd and 25th November 2004 of 4 Belgian F-16AM/F-16BM of the 350th Squadron. They flew dissimilar Air Training exercises alone or with the help of 4 Northrop F-5E against McDonnell F/A-18s.

Four French Alpha Jets of ETO 02.008 "Nice" came to Sion AB between the 14th and the 16th September 2004 for a visit to the local flying school, training together with 8 Northrop F-5E and F-5Fs. Four Northrop F-5F double-seaters went to Cazaux between the 3rd and the 5th November 2004, reciprocating the French visit.

Training took place at the end of November 2005 between 9 Northrop F-5s (from Staffel/Squadron 6), 10 McConnell F/A-18s and 2 French GAMD 2000.

Five Northrop F-5F visited Cazaux AB advance training base between the 1st and April 4th 2008 following a visit of three Alpha Jet from 11-03-08 till 14-03-08 to Sion AB.

                     Photo: unknown


  Switzerland participated with 1 Northrop F-5F and 5 McDonnell F/A-18C to the Electonic Warfare Live
  Training Exercise (Elite 2007) exercise from the 14th till the 28th June 2007 from Manching AB
  (Germany), in combination with RAF Tornado GR.4,Greek F-16s,Norwegian Falcon 20ECM Italian
  Tornado ECR, Turkish F-4 and F-16, Polish Su-22, Romanian MiG-21 Lancer and German Tornado ECM.
  This was the only F-5 that participated to this exercise; only McDonnell F/A-18C were present to other   editions.


Domestic exercises
Dissimilar air combat training between Tigers and Tigers and McDonnel F/A-18s is regularly held, while a well known exercise
is the yearly (October) shooting against ground targets at the Axalp shooting range by Northrop F-5 (plus Patrouille Suisse exhibition), McDonnel F/A-18.

 Photo: Kristof Jonckheere

Northrop F-5E J-3041 at the Axalp range firing a burst 10-10-03; smoke is just visible coming out of the 20mm cannons.

Exercise "Coperta" was held between 23 and 25-03-09, when Northrop F-5Es fictitiously guided intercepted civilian aircrafts to Zürich-Kloten airport.
A similar exercise, called "Stabante", was held between the 3rd and the 7th October 2011; aircrafts dromSquadron 9 from Meiringen participated to it.

"Stabando" excercise followed between betwwn 03 and 06-10-11 involving the 8 Squadron in the area of Berne, together with the 11 Squadron on McDonnell F/A-18s.

Another exercise at the civilian Geneva airport was held 13/14-11-12, when four Northrop F-5E landed there, making an simulated emergency landing. This was repeated on 25-04-13 by two Northrop F-5E.

"Sion 33" was an exercise centered on the defence of Sion Ab from attacking aircrafts from 11th till
  13th March 2013. It involved the use of 12 single-seaters, flown by pilots of Squadron 10 during their
  repetition course, 12 McDonnell F-18s and anti-aircrafts cannon and missile armed units.

An unusual exercise was held at Buochs AB in 2014. This former GAMD Mirage IIIS base, now on "sleeping" status, was 
reactivated between May 13th and 15th for the exercise "Revita" to test the ability for an emergency use; four Northrop F-5E with 11th Squadron militia pilots and four McDonnell A/F-18 were locally based during the exercise. The aircrafts arrived on May 13th; four waves were to be launched next daybut one McDonnell A/F-18 had a tecnical probem and 2 Northrop F-5E landed at another airport due to weather. The aircrafts returned to Meiringen AB on May 15th morning.

Domestic operations

Radioactivity of the air over Switzerland has
been measured for several years using both
single- and double-seaters.

Northrop F-5E J-3086 is seen here with two
filters under the wings ready for measurements
of vulcanic ash after the eruption of vulcan
Eyjafjallajökull in April 2010.

Particularly intensive measurement flights were
held following the Fukushima (Japan) atomic power
station explosion in March 2011.

                                           Photo © Swiss AF

International exercises in Switzerland
All training restrictions were finally dropped with the fall of the iron-courtain from 1990 and the Swiss participation to the NATO Partnership for Peace programme from December 1996.

The first in-country international exercise took place between 30-03-98 and 02-04-98 in collaboration with the French AF. Northrop F-5E from Staffel 6, based at Turtmann AB, acted as aggressors operating over bordering French territory in conjunction with Mirage IIIRS reconnaisance aircrafts; in addition, McDonnell Douglas F-18C and Hawks intercepted an important number of Armée de l'Air Mirage F.1Rs, Mirage F.1Ts, Mirage 2000Ds, Jaguars undertaking reconnaissance and ground-attack flights.

This yearly exercise takes place alternatively in France and Switzerland. The year 2005 saw the participation in May of 4 Mirage 2000-5F and 1 Mirage 2000B; they exercised against McDonnel Douglas F-18C and Northrop F-5s from Payerne AB.

The exercise took again place at Payerne AB in 2010; again Swiss McDonnell F-18C and Northrop F-5E/Fs exercised against 4 Mirage 2000-5F and 1 Mirage 2000B.

Additional French guests in Switzerland (Payerne AB) were two Mirage 2000 from Dijon and four from Orange end November 2005. There were even intensive air combats, seeing Mirage 2000 fighting alternatively against 10 McDonnel Douglas F-18C or 9 Northrop F-5s.

Year 2015
Northrop F-5s, together with Pilatus PC-9 and helicotpers EC635, participated during this year to the Army exercise as targets in favour of anti-aircrafts missile troops on 24/25 and 38/29/30 September; no live ammunition was used during the exercise.


Bosnian crisis
Switzerland gave unlimited clearance in 1995/96, for the first time in its history as a neutral country, for NATO transports and tankers overflights of its airspace. Northrop F-5E randomly intercepted some of the aircrafts to confirm their identity under internationally accepted procedures.

World Economic Forum (WEF) / Davos
This Forum reunits at Davos (Southern Switzerland) representatives of many governments, as well as representatives of the economy world, in January each year. A no-fly zone, under control of the Swiss and Austrian AF, is established each year since 2003 to avoid terroristic attacks from the air.
Swiss Northrop F-5E have supported the all-weather McDonnel F-18s and operate daylight missions (between 0800
 and 1800hrs) since 2005 with live ammunition, armed guns and live, white painted, AIM-9-P-5 Sidewinders. This is the only moment that Swiss fighters fly with live, armed cannons and missiles. All weather/night, as well as daylight operations are flown by McDonnell F/A-18C; Pilatus PC-7 take care of slow, low flying aircrafts. The Tigers have operated from Meiringen AB (2005/08/10/13), Payerne AB (2007/11), Sion AB (2006/09/12/14).


             Badge WEF 2012

  Northrop F-5E J-3076 at Sion AB on
  26-01-07 armed with active (white)
  Sidewinder on the way to the no fly
  zone around Davos.

  Photo © Swiss AF