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Fliegerstaffel 8; Meiringen, January 21 & 22, 2015

The Swiss Air Force, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Fliegerstaffel 8 is one of the Swiss Militia units and is currently equipped with the American Northrop F-5 Tiger. The unit is based at Meiringen Air Base in the middle of the country and is part of Fliegergeschwader 13. The militia unit flies only a few weeks a year, because the pilots of the unit are all reservists.

Fliegerstaffel 8 was founded in 1925 as Gründung der Fliegerkompanie 8. This unit is one of the older units of the Swiss Air Force. Nowadays Fliegerstaffel 8 a typical militia unit of the Swiss Air Force. The unit is stationed at the airbase Meiringen in the middle of the country. Fliegerstaffel 8 is together with Fliegerstaffel 11 part of Fliegerge- schwader 13 (Fl Geschw 13). In the years that followed after its creation in 1925, the unit was from 1925 until 1933 equipped with the Haefeli DH-3 and from 1926 until 1934 with the Haefeli DH-5. The Haefeli DH-3 and DH-5 are two-seat reconnaissance aircraft which were built in 1919 by the Department of aircraft Federal Building Works (Eidgenoessische Konstruktionswerkstaette, (W+K)) in Thun, Switzerland. The planes were light biplanes which were built of wood with a fabric covering of the fuselage and wings. In total, the Swiss Air Force used 79 of these aircraft which were mainly used at Fliegerkompanie 8. The Fokker CV was put into service at Fliegerkompanie 8 from 1934. The Fokker CV was purchased as part of the mobilization by the growing German threat to the Second World War. The Fokker CV was a scout bomber built by Fokker from 1924. The aircraft was a development of the Breeder CIV. The Fokker CV would become the most military used Fokker which was built during the interwar period. Switzerland took no part in the Second World War and the aircraft stayed in use in the period from 1940 until 1949. After the war, the Messerschmitt Me-109E was used by Fliegerkompanie 8.

Fliegerkompanie 8 was shortly after the Second World War from 1945 to the present renumbered to the name Fliegerstaffel 8. The unit was in its last years of the propeller era, because it would not take long before Fliegerstaffel 8 would enter the jet age. The Messerschmitt Me-109E was replaced in 1949 by the De Havilland DH-100 Vampire. The Vampire was the first jet aircraft which was put into service within the Swiss Air Force. The aircraft was developed in the United Kingdom and has been used by

several air forces in Europe. The Vampire was a versatile aircraft which put down many records such as the first British aircraft that flew more than 800 km/h. The Western military forces used the Vampire for combat operations until 1955, later it was used as a training aircraft until 1965. In Fliegerstaffel 8 the Vampire remained in use until the end of 1959. The Vampire was replaced by the modern Hawker Hunter at the end of the year. The Hawker Hunter is a subsonic jet which was developed in 1950. The Hawker Hunter was employed as an agile fighter jet and was later used as a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. When Fliegerstaffel 8 received the aircraft in 1959, the unit was moved to Meiringen. The Hunter was used in this period as an air defense fighter within the unit. In 1975 Fliegerstaffel 8 would move to Alpnach which is not far from Meiringen. The unit remained at its new home to fly with the Hawker Hunter until 1980. After this period a lot was going to change for the unit.

From 1980, the unit switched to the Northrop F-5E/F Tiger. The unit would then move back from Alpnach to Meiringen. Also the role of Fliegerstaffel 8 would change. The unit would become a militia squadron. The Swiss militias units have only in times of war have an operational role. It is a kind of reservist’s army which will train only a few weeks a year. Of the approximately 400 Swiss military pilots only half of them are professional, the rest are militia pilots. The pilots of Fliegerstaffel 8 will train just a few weeks each year during the so-called Wiederholungskurs (WK). The fact that the pilots of this unit will train only a few weeks each year is also the reason why there is not more F-5 activity in Meiringen than in those weeks. The training for the militia pilots consists of a minimum of 50 flying hours in the F-5 per year. Much of the militia pilots are in everyday life pilot with a civilian airline. However, there are people who simply have a regular office job and therefore not fly outside the WK weeks. The militia pilots train several times a year for a period of two weeks. Each week exercising an hour on the F-5 is not enough to be a successful fighter pilot. During the WK are scenarios flown that occur in reality. The WK is built in up phases. Every year only one week the basic skills of flying are practiced with the F-5. Then weeks will follow in which various tactics are trained. At the end of the year, an end scenario is flown too. After completing this phase, the pilots are qualified as a full worthy pilot on the F-5 Tiger. This is the only way to qualify the pilots in a very short period as a military pilot.

The militia pilots have before they joined the Air Force as airman all completed the Air Force training and the full pilot training. The militias of the Air Force are all flying the F-5 Tiger and not the F/A-18 Hornet. The Hornet is a too complex plane to fly with only 50 flying hours of training per year. Therefore, this type is only flown by the fulltime professional pilots. Besides the WK, the pilots of Fliegerstaffel 8 annually take part in the operational CAP missions during the WEF. During the WEF, aircraft patrol with live weapons under the wings in the region of Davos to secure the airspace. The militia units of the Swiss Air Force are all small units which have eight up to nine aircraft. This is no exception at Fliegerstaffel 8. The militias therefore have a limited number of pilots in service of the unit. Fliegerstaffel 8 consists of only one commander, two intelligence officers and thirteen pilots. When the aircraft of this unit are not used, they hang in the cavern at Meiringen on the roof in special hooks. In this way the air force can properly handle the limited space which is available in the cavern. It is not yet clear whether Fliegerstaffel 8 will survive in the future when the successor of the F-5 is put into service. The Swiss Air Force wants to buy the Saab JAS-39 Gripen for the militias. However, in a referendum, the choice for this aircraft was rejected by the people. It is not yet clear whether there really is a replacement for the F-5 that will be purchased. But until then the F-5 will fly along at Meiringen during the annual exercises.




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