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Where? Meiringen, Switzerland
When? May 2014

The Swiss Air Force still operates two jet types in their fleet, the F-18 Hornet and the F-5E Tiger. During the annual WK (Wiederholungskurs - repetition course) Squadrons operating these aircraft relocate to a certain airbase in order to train their skills in a "€šwartime-like Environment"€˜. In May of each year it is usually time for the 11. and 18. Squadron to hold this exercise at the alpine airbase Meiringen.

Meiringen is located in the middle of Switzerland, having its runway embedded in a narrow valley and surrounded by farms, fields and cows. The scenery around the airbase is thus very scenic and quite unique, as are the caverns, those famous caves that can host a full two Squadrons of aircraft. Their inside is classified as top secret, but it can be derived that their inner includes everything that is needed for maintaining and operating the jets, as well as for '€šdaily life'€˜ activities.

6  F 18 9273 Zeitler 700 470 90
6  F 18 9273 Zeitler 100 67 85
6 F 18 2711 Zeitler 100 67 85
6 F 18 2836 Zeitler 100 67 85
3  F 18 2783 Zeitler 700 470 90
3  F 18 2783 Zeitler 100 67 85
3 F 18 2701 Zeitler 100 67 85
3 F 18 2850 Zeitler 100 67 85
3 F 18 2918 Zeitler 100 67 85

During the WK the two Squadrons operate out of the caverns, and the jets do only appear outside with their pilots already sitting in the cockpit and ready to start the jet. Thus once the aircraft is out, the tow truck is being removed and the engines starts howling and the aircraft is ready within minutes to taxi. This procedure considerably reduces the time the jet sits vulnerable on the ground in emergencies.

5  F 18 9241 Zeitler 700 470 90
5  F 18 9241 Zeitler 100 67 85
5 F 18 9232 Zeitler 100 67 85
5 F 18 9233 Zeitler 100 67 85
5 F 18 9235 Zeitler 100 67 85
5 F 18 9255 Zeitler 100 67 85
A F 5 9222 Zeitler 700 470 90
A F 5 9222 Zeitler 100 67 85
A F 5 9291 Zeitler 100 67 85
A F 5 9293 Zeitler 100 67 85
A F 5 9299 Zeitler 100 67 85

The two Squadrons operating the F-5E and F-5F Tigers and F-18C and F-18D Hornets were flying regularly this day in around 5-6 waves, each consisting of up to 4 aircraft. Most of those were training flights in air-ground role, as the aircraft could be seen circling around the famous Axalp air-ground gunnery training range above the valley. Additionally the remarkable sound of the famous M61 Vulcan canon was gently heard reverberating in the valley.

1  F 18 0110 Zeitler 700 470 90
1  F 18 0110 Zeitler 100 67 85
1 F 18 0077 Zeitler 100 67 85
1 F 18 0088 Zeitler 100 67 85
1 F 18 2809 Zeitler 100 67 85
1 F 18 9278 Zeitler 100 67 85
1 F 18 9288 Zeitler 100 67 85
2  F 18 9316 Zeitler 700 470 90
2  F 18 9316 Zeitler 100 67 85
2 F 18 0063 Zeitler 100 67 85
2 F 18 2745 Zeitler 100 67 85
2 F 18 2781 Zeitler 100 67 85
2 F 18 9364 Zeitler 100 67 85
4  F 18 9398 Zeitler 700 470 90
4  F 18 9398 Zeitler 100 67 85
4 F 18 2812 Zeitler 100 67 85
4 F 18 2932 Zeitler 100 67 85
4 F 18 2937 Zeitler 100 67 85
4 F 18 9390 Zeitler 100 67 85
4 F 18 9399 Zeitler 100 67 85

Air-air training was also on the order of the day. For these flights, the "€šAggressor"€˜ Tigers do carry an external fuel tank painted in a high-visibility orange - or the scheme of the Patrouille Suisse to be better seen by their training partner.

7  F 5 2882 Zeitler 700 470 90
7  F 5 2882 Zeitler 100 67 85
7 F 5 2757 Zeitler 100 67 85
7 F 5 2769 Zeitler 100 67 85
7 F 5 9266 Zeitler 100 67 85
7 F 5 9333 Zeitler 100 67 85
7 F 5 9341 Zeitler 100 67 85
9  F 5 9978 Zeitler 700 470 90
9  F 5 9978 Zeitler 100 67 85
9 F 5 2894 Zeitler 100 67 85
9 F 5 2902 Zeitler 100 67 85
9 F 5 2906 Zeitler 100 67 85
9 F 5 9311 Zeitler 100 67 85
8  F 5 0157 Zeitler 700 470 90
8  F 5 0157 Zeitler 100 67 85
8 F 5 0015 Zeitler 100 67 85
8 F 5 0020 Zeitler 100 67 85
8 F 5 0134 Zeitler 100 67 85
8 F 5 2755 Zeitler 100 67 85
8 F 5 2908 Zeitler 100 67 85

Though the F-5E and F-5F Tigers were in full swing during this WK, after more than 30 years in Swiss service they are becoming a rare breed in Switzerland with their days being counted more or less. With the "€žNo"€œ to the Gripen NG of the Swiss public in a recent vote it remains to be seen what the strategy of the Swiss Air Force will be to replace those aging jets and renew their fleet that after disbanding the Tigers would consist of only 30 F-18 Hornets. It will be interesting to see how the Swiss Air Force reacts once this rare breed is becoming extinct in the Swiss Alps.

B Cougar 9298 Zeitler 700 470 90
B Cougar 9298 Zeitler 100 67 85
B EC635 2832 Zeitler 100 67 85
B PC 7 0056 Zeitler 100 67 85

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