In a clear sky, two Lightning strikes suddenly hit the Swiss mountains.
October 2022, down in the valley we listened the pleasant roar of the engines of Swiss FA-18 Hornets training in the Bernese mountains, we waited for the overflight of the 4 aircraft at end of training and their return to Meiringen AFB and suddenly with Swiss aircraft 2 different figures appear, two more planes. We stand there looking amazed for a few seconds and then happily appreciate for first time in Bernese Alps two splendid Lockheed Martin F35As.
The Swiss Air Force wanted to make a very welcome surprise for Axalp 2022, in fact in collaboration with Italian Air Force/Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI) they presented to the amazed eyes of the 4000 people who climbed on the three positions of the shooting range, two AMI Lockheed Martin F35As: the 6-01 of the 6° Stormo (6th Wing) “Diavoli Rossi” from Ghedi AFB and 32-09 of the 32° Stormo (32nd Wing) from Amendola AFB.
The two Italian aircraft for all three days of the event took off from the Ghedi AFB, home of the 6° Stormo (which will change its current fleet of Panavia Tornadoes with the new F35As) flew to the Swiss shooting range, carried out the overflight and some passages to demonstrate flight skills and then returned to Italy.
Since years a traditional autumn appointment for Best Shot Aircraft Team, the annual Swiss Air Force Axalp shooting exercise takes place every year in the Bernese mountains with aircraft from the local Meiringen AFB, “Home of Swiss Tigers” Fliegerstaffel 11, and aircraft from Payerne AFB in French-speaking Switzerland, homebase of Fliegerstaffel 17 and 18.
The event open to the public took place on 19th and 20th October with training on 18th October from 14:00 for almost 1.5 hours of uninterrupted air show, while for the entire month of October in the natural theater in the mountains above Lake Brienz, the Swiss F/A-18 Hornets perform several training passes and shooting sessions with the onboard gun. During three days, the air forces, which organize the Airshow, then allow the public to follow the exercises and demonstrate the capabilities of the units involved in Swiss air defense.
The official Airshow program for Axalp 2022 includes the following assets:
- F/A-18 gun firing in the mountains (4 F/A-18 from Meiringen AFB – Fliegerstaffel 11/11°Sqn)
- Cougar’s flight characteristics (SuperPuma Display Team)
- Flyover with 4 F/A-18 with 2 special guest: AMI F35A
- Air Policing mission (1 SuperPuma with 1 PC7)
- Air Policing mission (2 F/A-18 with 1 Pilatus PC24)
- Parascouts Missions (Swiss Para Wings Team supported from Pilatus Porter)
- Flyover Swiss Air Force Training Aircraft (F/A-18. Pilatus PC21, Pilatus PC7)
- F/A-18 flight characteristics (Swiss Hornet Display Team – Capt. Yannick “Fönsi” Zanata)
- Pilatus PC-21 presentation (Lieutenant Colonel Daniel “Stampa” Stämpfli)
- Special Forces Operations (KSK-Kommando Spezialkräfte)
- Patrouille Suisse
During the week dedicated to the Airshow, Swiss Armed Forces also have the opportunity to meet guests of the Air and Armed forces from all over the world to attend this unique event of its kind. Among the important guests, the Swiss Air Forces wanted to meet the Commands of the French Armee de l’Air et de l’Espace to renew the oldest air police treaty in Europe.
Indeed, air police cooperation will continue between France and Switzerland with a bilateral agreement that allows smooth cross-border cooperation in terms of permanent aviation security position (PPS-A: Posture Permanente de Sûreté Aérienne). The signatories, who met on 18th October inside Meiringen Air Force Base, were Divisional Air General Dominique Tardif, Deputy Head of Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace, and Brigadier General Werner Epper, Deputy Commander of the Swiss Air Force.
The various military guests present to attend Axalp 2022 also took part in the pre-event briefing at Meiringen air base, with many Swiss government authorities present. The briefing had as protagonists the Chief of Swiss Air Forces Major General Peter “Pablo” Merz, Chief of Swiss Armed Forces Lieutenant General Thomas Süssli and the Head of Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) federal councilor Viola Amherd.
Federal Councilor Viola Amherd, a lawyer and notary from Valais Region born in 1962, inherited the DDPS at the beginning of 2019, a department that also deals with the Swiss armed forces, and is strenuously directing it, committing itself to guaranteeing the defense of the territory and people in a difficult situation world politics.
In fact, during the briefing she reiterated the need to choose the new defense systems that will be acquired in the coming years, a choice that will guarantee coverage of the territory for many years and with the most modern technologies available.
Federal Councilor Amherd visited the two European F-35 production lines at F.A.C.O. (Final Assembly and Check Out) of Leonardo Company in Cameri (NO) Italy, welcomed and guided by Corps General Luciano Portolano, Secretary General of the Italian Defense.
Future of Swiss Armed Force
In future, as highlighted by the Army Chief Süssli and Air Forces Chief Merz, will also have to look at modernization of 24 defense systems that are gradually nearing end of their operational life. Among these, for example, transport by helicopters with the current Cougar and SuperPuma. These helicopters don’t guarantee 100% protection of personnel and vehicles transported and between 2035 and 2040 they will be at “end of their career”, in next few years the process of evaluating possible candidates will begin.
In addition to purchase of Lockheed Martin F35A Lightning II multi-role fighter, Switzerland has also been testing two of new reconnaissance drones type: Hermes 900 HFE “Kochav” of Israeli Elbit System in recent months, the Swiss government has entered into a contract for purchase of 6 Hermes drones for replace the old RUAG/IAI ADS-95 “Rangers”.
Comprehensive and intense Axalp 2022 briefing that exposed the complex modern defense system that will see land and air constantly connected in any possible scenario.
Axalp 2022 graced by generous weather for two days and slightly covered only for the last day, highlighted the capabilities of the Swiss military forces and the capabilities of the vehicles used in the shooting theater.
Also present were the Special Forces Operations – Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) (demo strongly desired by the previous Chief of Air Forces: Bernhard “Beni” Müller) which, as every year, demonstrated the speed of intervention, execution of the mission (with the various weapons supplied, including a PanzerFaust 3) and return, also supported by a SuperPuma.
Another novelty of this year, the interception by a SuperPuma that makes contact with a Pilatus PC7 demonstrating the ability to intervene for small aircraft.
The scramble demonstration to intercept a civil jet via two F/A-18s on an air police mission, always interesting with the Swiss Air Force Pilatus PC24 at its last use given that the Swiss government has sold it and from early November 2022 it will belong to a private company.
About 2000 people for the training day and 4000 for the Airshow delighted their passionate eyes with the Swiss Top Gun evolutions, enjoyed the evolutions between the Swiss mountain walls of the two Italian F35As and finally admired the splendid evolutions of the official Swiss displays: Swiss Hornet Display, SuperPuma Display, Swiss Para Wings and finally the famous Patrouille Suisse.
The splendid surprise of the two Italian Lockheed Martin F35As, kept strictly secret until October 18th, the day of the training, was particularly useful in demonstrating the qualities of the aircraft that will protect the Swiss skies from the end of 2026. Already tested and presented to the public in March 2022, also admired on that occasion by thousands of people at the Emmen AFB, is gradually increasing the popularity among the Swiss population.
Top Gun @ Axalp 2022
In the year of release of “Top Gun: Maverick” where the evolutions of US Navy F/A-18s are very similar to those of the Swiss Top Guns who for 80 years have caressed the alpine roughness of Axalp and demonstrate the precision and ability of piloting in years spent with Hawker Hunter, or Dassault Mirage, Northrop F5 Tiger II and today with their Boeing F/A-18 Hornets waiting to have the new ultra-modern American multirole fighters.
The next appointment is for 2023 between the Bernese Alps and the Haslital valleys, among the splendid natural scenery of the Swiss landscape, the colors of Lake Brienz and the pleasant roar of the powerful General Electric F404 engines.
From Ebenfluh Shooting Range – Axalp bei Brienz (BE) Switzerland: Daniele Maiolo
In collaboration with Ramon Martin, Frank Braun
Axalp 2022 – Link:
Axalp 2022 – Gallery (Ramon Martin):
Ramon Martin – BSA Reporter
Axalp 2022 – Gallery (Daniele Maiolo)
Axalp – Video (Frank Braun)
more video on Frank Braun Youtube