A series of recent crashes have cast doubts on the Swiss Air Force’s ability to participate in international air shows and joint training exercises, such as the one with NATO countries in 2017.
Switzerland’s participation in air defence exercises of NATO’s Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) next year is unlikely given the shortage of jets due to crashes and maintenance issues. The TLP for 2017 will probably be cancelled, air force spokesperson Jürg Nussbaum told German-language paper NZZ am Sonntag on Sunday.
Apart from the 10 NATO countries, pilots from Switzerland, Turkey and Poland have been invited as guests on the TLP courses. Six such courses of four weeks duration take place every year with up to 24 aircraft and crews participating in each course.
Apart from training exercises, air shows have also been curtailed. A flight demonstration at an air show in the Czech Republic was cancelled in September for lack of sufficient aircraft. This bottleneck was further exacerbated by unplanned and additional overhaul of aircraft engines during this period.
Recent crashes have taken a toll on the number of planes that can be spared for non-priority activities. An F/A-18 military jet crashed into the mountains in late August while two Swiss F-5 fighter jets from the Patrouille Suisse aerobatic display team collided in the Netherlands in June. Two more F/A-18 had to written off after crashes in France and Switzerland in 2015 and 2013 respectively.
According to the defence ministry, only 25 of 53 F-5 fighter jets are air worthy, while 30 of 34 F/A-18 planes are operational. The acquisition of new fighter planes has stalled after the Swiss people voted against the acquisition of 22 JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets in 2014.
swissinfo.ch and agencies