Protection, Assistance and Opening to the World
- In 1976, Alouette III helicopters were deployed to the areas hit by earthquakes and landslides in northern Italy.
The first extensive air rescue mission ever flown by the Air Force goes back to 1946, a spectacular glacier rescue with Fieseler-Storch aircraft.
The introduction of helicopters in 1952 opened up new perspectives for air rescue in the following decade.
From 1968 on, two Pilatus PC-6 Porter aircraft specially equipped for forest firefighting were stationed in the Ticino.
In 1974, the newly established Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit supported the first Swiss relief operations abroad in the African countries of the Chad basin, which had been hit by drought and widespread famine. Two Swiss Armed Forces Pilatus PC-6 Porters were deployed for almost four months to ensure both liaison and emergency transport in this large area.
In May 1976, two of our Alouette III helicopters supported Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit medical experts for two weeks when they were deployed after an earthquake hit the Friaul region in Northern Italy. In the wake of the massive landslide that buried the village of Morignone on 28 July 1987, and the violent storms on 31 August and 4 September 1987, four military helicopters were deployed to support the disaster relief mission in the Valtellina region in Italy.
Another important event was the graduation of the first four female pilots (provisionally still assigned to the Air Transport Service) in 1995.
- On the way to aerial combat training over the Mediterranean, near Sardinia
At the beginning of the Seventies, the search was on for suitable training areas abroad. It was in 1977 that Switzerland carried out its first firing trials in Vidsel (Sweden). 1978 saw the first appearance abroad of the 'Patrouille Suisse' (which had been formed for the Swiss National Exhibition Expo-64) - flying Hunter aircraft at Salon-de-Provence (France). In 1985, Swiss Air Force pilots began low-altitude aerial combat training in Sardinia. Since 1991, these exercises are held over the North Sea (UK).
The foundation for foreign country training exchanges was laid with a Protocole d'accord for pilot training, signed with France in the Eighties. This was followed by other agreements with numerous foreign defence forces. Since 1996, the Commander-in-Chief of the Swiss Air Force is a member of the European Air Chiefs Conference (EURAC).
Further milestones in the history of the Swiss Air Force
2006 – A far-reaching reform
2008 – The formation ceremony of the Command Support 30 Training Unit in Frauenfeld
On 1 January 2008, following a long period of preparation and planning, the Signal/Command Support 1 and the Air Force Command Support 34 training units were combined in the new Command Support Training Unit 30 (CS TU 30), which was inaugurated with a ceremony on Friday, 4 January 2008, in Frauenfeld. The CS TU 30 was attached to the Air Force.
- Media release of 10 January 2008 (in German only)
2008 – The referendum “Stop combat aircraft noise in tourist areas”
2009 – The referendum “No new combat aircraft!”
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 GSoA withdraw the initiative
On 15 November 2010, the press was informed that the referendum had been withdrawn as the GSoA considered their initiative to have successfully put pressure on the project and caused the Federal Council to put the partial replacement of the aged Tiger fleet on the back burner. Thus, they considered the objective achieved.
2009 - Website PRO-Kampfflugzeuge.ch
In the spring of 2009, the information group PRO-Kampfflugzeuge (German for pro-combat aircraft) launched an informative website, which provided convincing manufacturer and aircraft type independent arguments for a quick partial replacement of the obsolete Tiger combat aircraft, in German called Tiger Teilersatz TTE (Tiger-Teilersatz TTE). Supporters of the replacement project were given important arguments and statistics to be used in discussions on the indispensability of acquiring new combat aircraft from peace, security and economic political perspectives. The website was operated by the “Verein Informationsgruppe PRO-Kampfflugzeuge”, the “association of the information group pro-combat aircraft”, headed by Hans-Ulrich Helfer, a politician from the Liberal Democratic Party of Switzerland from Zurich as president and Erich Grätzer, a former air force lieutenant as vice-president, who were assisted by experts.
- For further information go to www.PRO-Kampfflugzeuge.ch
(in German, French and Italian only)
2010 – The Federal Council to postpone the Tiger partial replacement
At the meeting on 25 August 2010, the Federal Council confirmed its basic approval of the partial replacement of the 54 obsolete Tiger F-5 fighter jets.
Based on the financial situation of the Confederation and the general priorities at the time, however, the procurement was postponed to 2015 at the latest.
- Media release of 25 August 2010
- Tiger partial replacement (in German, French and Italian only)
2010 – Permanent operational readiness of alert patrols
On 15 September 2010 during its third autumn session, the National Council approved the motion “increased air patrol service readiness outside of normal work hours” submitted by Hess Hans, National Councillor from the Canton of Obwalden, with 98 votes cast in favour and 47 votes against the motion. Previously, on 7 December 2009, the motion had already been submitted to and in its spring session, on 16 March 2010, been accepted by the Council of States.
- Official Bulletin 09.4081 Motion Hess Hans (In German, French and Italian only)
Quote from Hans Hess’s justification statement for the motion: “In 2003, the Federal Council decided on the permanent surveillance of Swiss airspace. This decision was based on passive airspace surveillance, which has been ensured since July 2005 around the clock with both the Florako system and identification operators. This was an important first step but a decisive increase in safety could only be achieved if intervention capabilities were also available outside of normal working hours”. On 3 February 2010, the Federal Council requested the approval of the motion.
2011 – The National Council urges the Federal Council to procure the combat aircraft
On 9 March 2011, after it had approved the motion by its Security Commission, which demanded the prompt acquisition of combat aircraft, the National Council urged the Federal Council to promptly procure combat aircraft.
2011 – The Gripen is the best solution for the Swiss Armed Forces
2013 – First landing of a combat aircraft of the Swiss Air Force at a Russian air base
On 29. August 2013, during the eleventh International Aerospace Salon MAKS-2013 in Zhukovsky, an aircraft of the Swiss Air Force landed for the first time at a Russian air base. The following day, the F/A-18D Hornet with the markings J-5232 flew a presentation for the first time for the Russian public that responded with disbelief, amazement and spontaneous applause.
2014 – Referendum against the procurement of combat aircraft
Bern, 29 January 2014 – The request for a referendum against the Gripen Fund Act of 27 September 2013 for the procurement of the Gripen combat aircraft has been formally declared successful, with 65,384 valid of 65,797 signatures on the referendum petition submitted to the Federal Chancellery by the Gripen opponents.
On 15 January 2014, the Federal Council decided to put the referendum to a public vote on 18 May 2014.
In its 2013 autumn session, Parliament approved the purchase of 22 Saab Gripen at a cost of CHF 3.126 billion.
Last updated: 26.11.2014