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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 08-07-2020

                                                                                                                  COLD WAR ERA                                                               
Air Policing

   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 Tu -134
shown here on 18-11-83; its flightplan had not been submitted; it was
within 5 minutes from entering Swiss air-space by one Dübendorf AB based
Northrop F-5E and one Mirage IIIRS on alarm on the same base.

   An additional duty was to help civilian aircrafts in distress.

   Photo: Swiss Defence Department

Northro F-5E J-3093 (badge 6 Squadron) and J-3015 (badge  11 Squadron with active AIM-9  Sidewinder 


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 super-
sonicNorthrop 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.

                                                                                     Northrop F-5E J-3063 of the Squadron 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" 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 Defence Department
                                               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
                                                                                   Photo: Franz Wegmann

                                                         Line-up on an emerency strip near Flums on 15-10-85, seen from a bridge over the strip

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; eight
Alpnach AB based Tigers participated to exercise
"Nastasio" on 16-11-88 on a strip near Sion AB..

                                                          Pilots on the way to their second and first batch Northrop F-5Es during excercise
                                                       Nastauto. Bridge on the highway/runway caused major headache for pilots on take-off

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; 12 Northrop F-5s
and 12 Hawker Mk58 flown by pilots of the Aviation regiment 3.

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


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


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 participation of two single-,
seater, 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

  Photo: Peter Liander

Northrop F-5E J-3055 and J-3097 in company of 2 Swiss Mirage IIIs on an electronic warfare excercise with Saab J-37E serial 04/13 Wing.


  Only known photo of a Northrop F-5 with AGM-58B Mavericks under the wings on
  a test flight at Vidsel in 1991                              Photo: Swiss defence Department

                                                                                                                POST COLD WAR ERA                                              

Air combat excercises abroad

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:


Twenty-two 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

  Photos: F. Becker   
Northrop F-5E J-3045 at Decimomannu on 03-07-87; SAKA badge on nose, wingtip                      Northrop F-5F J-3207 at Decimomannu AB on 12-06-87, ACMI pod on the wingtip

training Sidewinder with only an active head.                                                                                     Photo: Friedrich Becker

   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)


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, Tornados.

 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 short 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.


                                                                     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
R. Netherlands AF 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 F-16s.

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

                                              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

Domestic trials and training

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



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
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.

                                                          Line-up of Northrop F-5F at Cazaux AB


   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  (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.

                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 8th October 2011 in the area of Berne; aircrafts from Squadron 8 from Meiringen (together with McDonnel F/A-18
of Squadron 11) participated to it.

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 by single- and double- seaters.

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

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

Northrop F-5E J-3094 was also active on 29-03-21 from Payerne AB; also used was Northrop F-5F J-3212

                                                                                                                                         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