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Lufttransportstaffel 5; Payerne, March 19, 2013

The Swiss Air Force, Part 4; Text and Photograph’s by Alex van Noye

The third geschwader which is based at Payerne is Lufttransportgeschwader 1. Also this unit consists of two staffels. Lufttransportstaffel 5 is the second unit of the geschwader after Lufttransportstaffel 1. The unit is equipped with three helicopter types, namely; The AS332 Super Puma, the AS532 Cougar and the EC635.

Lufttransportstaffel 5 is stationed at Payerne airbase in the northwestern part of Switzerland. The unit has a hangar complex on the north side of the base next to the control tower of the airport. The unit consists partly of professional pilots and partly of militia pilots. The professional pilots are active throughout the year as professional helicopter pilots in the unit and they perform the daily tasks. These tasks include the transport of personnel, cargo and the performance of the SAR task. For the SAR task there is 24 hours a day 365 days a year a Puma or Cougar rescue helicopter stand-by. The militia pilots are part-time helicopter pilots in the unit and fly only a few weeks a year training missions. The rest of the year, the militia pilots are operating as a helicopter pilots within various civil companies. The pilots of the militia only fly 30 to 33 days per year at Lufttransportstaffel 5. These days are spread over the year in a number of training weeks. These training weeks consists of one week of basic helicopter training, 2 weeks of operational training on the different helicopter types at Payerne and 2 to 3 weeks of operational training at another location in the country. With the system of the militia pilots, the Swiss Air Force has a large pool of helicopter pilots which is relatively inexpensive and very efficient. Lufttransportstaffel 5 uses three types of helicopters, namely; the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma, the Eurocopter AS532 Cougar and the Eurocopter EC635. The badge of the unit consists of a green grasshopper which is shown in a white circle.

Lufttransportstaffel 5 was formed in 1962 as the first Leichtfliegerstaffel of the Swiss Air Force. The unit was in that period called Leichtfliegerstaffel 5. The unit was born from the need for more light aircraft and helicopters within the Swiss Air Force. The unit was established on Reichenbach airbase. Later also Frutingen airbase became the home base of this staffel. The first aircraft which entered service at Leicht- fliegerstaffel 5 was the Piper PA-18 Super Cub. This aircraft was built in the United

States and was mainly used for light transport duties and for aerial observation. The Super Cub was already an old plane, because the design made its first flight in 1949. The first helicopter which the unit received was the Hiller UH-12B. The UH-12 was a lightweight helicopter which was used for observations. The UH-12 is the civilian version of OH-23 Raven which was used at various air forces in Europe. The helicopter made its first flight in 1948 and was one of the first operational helicopters in Europe. The UH-12 was built in America and was the first helicopter which entered service in the Swiss Air Force. The main helicopter type which was used at that time in Leichtfliegerstaffel 5 was the Aerospatiale Allouette II. The Allouette II was a contem- porary observation helicopter which had much more power compared to the UH-12. The Allouette II was designed in the early 50s by the French Sud Aviation. The fourth aircraft type which was assigned to Leichtfliegerstaffel 5 was the Dornier Do-27.

From 1964, the pilots of Leichtfliegerstaffel 5 were retrained on the Pilatus P2. The Pilatus P2 served in Switzerland between 1946 and 1981. The aircraft had therefore a very long career in the Swiss Air Force. The aircraft was originally developed as a training aircraft, but could also be armed with light weapons such as machine guns and rocket pods. In 1965, Leichtfliegerstaffel 5 moved to Kägiswil airbase in the middle of the country near Stans. The Piper Super Cub and the Hiller UH-12 were quickly phased out. At the end of the 60s pilots were retrained to the Junkers Ju-52 and the Pilatus PC-6 Porter. Especially the Junkers Ju-52 was a very old aircraft which was already in use at the Swiss Air Force since the Second World War. The Pilatus PC-6 made its first flight in 1959 and is currently still in service within the Swiss Air Force at Lufttransportstaffel 7. The PC-6 is able to start and land at difficult terrain in the mountains. The PC-6 is therefore a very suitable aircraft in the mountainous country. The Junkers Ju-52 was eventually taken out of service from the Swiss Air Force in 1982. From 1974, Leichtfliegerstaffel 5 was renamed to Lufttransportstaffel 5 and the unit received the Sud Aviation Allouette III. The Allouette III is a helicopter which could perform very well in the mountains. Partly due to these features this helicopter would remain in service with Lufttransportstaffel 5 until 2010. The helicopter has proven itself as the most important helicopter until the arrival of the Super Puma and the Cougar.

The AS332 Super Puma was assigned to Lufttransportstaffel 5 from 1992. The unit had moved to Interlaken near Meiringen in the middle of the country at that moment. The Swiss Air Force purchased a total of 15 AS332 Super Puma helicopters. From 1987, these helicopters were delivered to the Air Force. These helicopters entered service in Lufttransportstaffel 5 as well. The Swiss Puma Super helicopters are of the type AS332M1 and are registered as T-311 to T-325. The first versions of the Super Puma which entered service were 3 Super Puma’s of the type TH86; these helicopters were the direct replacements of the Ju-52. The other helicopters which were delivered were of the type TH89 Super Puma and were delivered from 1991 to 1993; the other three helicopters were updated to this standard. In addition to the Super Puma, a third series of helicopters was also supplied to the Swiss Air force of the type AS532 Cougar TH98. These helicopters are numbered from T-331 to T-342. These helicop- ters were purchased, because the Super Puma's had performed excellent at their tasks during the SFOR missions in the Balkans. The Cougar TH98s were delivered in 2001 and 2002. The helicopters undergo currently a modernization program which will update all TH89 Super Puma helicopters to the TH12 standard. With this update, the Super Puma's are brought to the same standard as the Cougars; the pilots can therefore fly both types without additional training. The Super Puma and the Cougar will remain in service at Lufttransportstaffel 5 and the rest of the Swiss helicopter fleet.

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