The second week of October coincides for all aviation enthusiasts with the culminating event of the European aviation season. In fact, it is the days when the Swiss Air Forces carry out their cannon shooting exercises of his McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets in the Bernese Alps. In a splendid mountain scenery, between peaks ranging from 2200 to 3000 meters, the experienced Swiss pilots practice on different targets positioned in different points of the rocky walls of the Swiss Alps.
The history of the “Schiessplatz Axalp-Ebenfluh” dates back to the Second World War, when General Henri Guisan, commander-in-chief of the Swiss army, saw the need for an area where his pilots could practice bombing and shooting with the cannon to improve the support of his army’s ground troops. Thus it was that from October 1942 the area of Axalp-Ebenfluh was used as a shooting range. All the aircraft of the Swiss air forces over the years have seen the splendid panorama offered by this particular area of exercise, in fact over the years the various Venom and Vampire, then also the Hunters and Mirages up to the F5 and the current F/A -18 they flew on the Axalp.
Over the years, however, the story of Axalp has evolved, passing from launching bombs to cannon shooting, and has also had the presence of important guests such as the British General Montgomery and even the presence of aircrafts at times of foreign air forces, such as the Dassault Mirage of the Armee del l’Air or the Swedish Air Forces Saab Gripen.
Over the years, even the presence of spectators has increased and so the air forces have taken the opportunity to organize two days (plus a reserve/training day) dedicated to the public, preparing useful structures to host and facilitate access to the impervious mountain theater . Thus was born the “Fliegerschiessen Axalp ob Brienz der Schweizer Armee” which every year during the second week of October offers its exceptional show. As many fans know, it is still possible to admire the evolution of Swiss pilots even outside the scheduled dates, given that air forces perform their normal exercises during the month of October and at other dates, naturally without the structures created for the two days event.
Dates can be found on the website of the Swiss Air Force.
Axalp, so simply called by all of us from the name of the village below the shooting theater, offers a show that starts at 2:00 pm on each of the two days and begins with the presentation of the aircraft, the shooting exercise, the presentations of SAR operations, on the various displays of Swiss Air Forces aircraft and ends with the splendid display of the Patrouille Suisse, the local aerobatic team. But we must not overlook the Evolutions offered by the Swiss Air Force transport helicopters, which in their various transport flights, of personnel and guests of the Swiss army, sometimes offer pleasant maneuvers and at the end an impressive passage in formation.
Unfortunately the particular morphology of the area, the climatic conditions of the autumn period or even other causes have repeatedly prevented the carrying out of the event or the access to the public to the area. This is one of the risks every enthusiast knows about Axalp, but it is always an inevitable appointment in the agendas of us all.
After the wonderful event of last year, of which you can find the report on our site, and a splendid training day on Tuesday 8 October, unfortunately both the climatic conditions and some technical problems at the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Swiss Hornets forced the air forces to cancel the event and also the shooting exercise. In fact, in addition to the bad weather on Wednesday and the strong wind forecast at high altitude on Thursday, the aeronautical technicians, following the regular checks to which the aircraft are subjected, found micro-cracks in the flaps. This technical problem that had already been seen a few years ago on the Swiss Hornets, forced the command to ground some aircraft and to limit the operations of others to maintain the safety of the pilots and the population.
The Swiss Air Force technicians immediately set to work to solve the problem and keep the Hornet fleet in flight, but Switzerland is now at the limit with the use of these splendid aircraft and is in the running with the procedures of choice and of future purchase of a new aircraft and after this last problem it becomes even more evident the need for replacement with more modern and efficient aircraft.
The planes involved in the choice are: the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, the Boeing F/A-18 SuperHornet and the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II which have all been present in Switzerland in recent months to be tested and check if the Swiss facilities are compatible with the planes involved. Until the summer the Saab Gripen was also present in the group of planes involved in the selection, but the air force withdrew the interest in the Swedish aircraft that in its latest version the larger and technologically advanced Gripen E is currently carrying out its test flights with the livery of the first user, the FAB Força Aérea Brasileira.
As with the Gripen previously the remaining aircraft will have to be in their latest and updated version. In the future we will keep you updated on the evolution of the acquisition operations of the new Swiss fighter.
Axalp 2019, this year went like this… Best shot Aircraft was supposed to be present in the Swiss mountains on October 10th with a flight with the Swiss SuperPumas which unfortunately didn’t happen. We, like all enthusiasts, also know the risk, as previously mentioned, but next year we would be present again and we will try again so as all the lovers of this exceptional event will try again.
From Axlap (Switzerland): Daniele Maiolo.