F-18 Hornet Swiss Airforce
The Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe, Forces aériennes suisses, Forze Aeree Svizzere) is the air component of the Swiss Armed Forces. It was established on July 31, 1914 but did not become a separate service until 1936.
During World War II, it defended Swiss airspace against incursions by both Allied and Axis aircraft, shooting down aircraft from both sides of the conflict.
A report in the Swiss news magazine FACTS reveals that the Swiss Air Force only provides ready-to-take-off aircraft during office hours – on working days. The air force staff declared that, due to financial limits, they are not operational all the time. The difficulty of defending Swiss airspace is illustrated by the small size of the country; the maximum extension of Switzerland is 348 km, a distance that can be flown in little over 20 minutes by commercial aircraft. Further, Switzerland's policy of neutrality means that they are unlikely to be deployed elsewhere.
Its primary front-line air-defence fleet consists of 33 F-18 Hornets (Squadrons: 11, 17, 18. 34 were originally bought, but one crashed) and 54 remaining F-5 Tiger IIs (110 were originally purchased). In 2010 the Swiss Air Force intends to begin the retirement of the F-5 in the three squadrons (Patrouille Suisse, 8th, 19th) that use it and hopes to acquire a New Warplane/Neues Kampfflugzeug (NFK) as replacement. As with the earlier F/A-18 procurement conducted in the late 1990s, this is expected to prove a politically fraught procurement due to Switzerland's socialist, anti-army and green groups, which are all opposed to such purchases. The Patrouille Suisse will need to change to a new aircraft, either the F/A-18 Hornet or the new fighter. The Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and the Saab Gripen are being considered, with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet rumoured to having been discarded as a choice due to hangar-size discompatibilities.
In 2011 the Swiss Air Force will also be retiring its venerable fleet of 60 Aérospatiale Alouette III, which will be replaced by Eurocopter EC-635s.
The national aerobatic demonstration team of Swiss Air Force is the Patrouille Suisse, which flies the F-5 Tiger II aircraft.
Picture added on 08 July 2007