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Drohnenstaffel 7; Emmen, January 23, 2015

The Swiss Air Force, part 6; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Drohnenstaffel 7 is the youngest operational unit of the Swiss Air Force. The unit is responsible for the exploration of enemy terrain with the help of ADS95 Ranger. This unmanned aircraft is a small radio-controlled drone which is able to collect and to send data live as detailed information of explored areas.

Drohnenstaffel 7 is the only Swiss unit which operates unmanned aircraft. The unit has been operational since 2001 and has 28 Drones of the type Aufklärungsdrohnen- system 95 Ranger (ADS 95 Ranger). The ADS 95 Ranger is produced by the Swiss RUAG Aerospace in Emmen. The Ranger was commissioned by the former GRD (Arma Suisse) and is developed as a reconnaissance drone. The Ranger made its first successful flight on December 21, 1988. The small aircraft was in this first version powered by a twin-cylinder two-stroke engine line of the type Gobler-Hirth F-31 with a power of 28 kW (38pk). The drone has a maximum speed of 220 km/h. The Ranger can optionally be equipped with a conventional landing gear or in its default configuration with skids depending on the wishes of the owner of the aircraft. With the Skids configuration, the drone is perfectly able to land away from airports. The drone is launched with the help of a 16 meter long catapult which was originally mounted on a ground vehicle of type Steyr "Pinzgauer 6x6". The Swiss company RUAG Aerospace, based in Emmen, is since 1983 working in the sector of drones. Switzerland decided to develop its own drone in September 1988. The needs of the Swiss Air Force were used to develop reconnaissance drones. The experiments with the first developed drone of the Scout type were not safe enough and were never put into use. The later Ranger received the military designation Aufklärungsdrohnensystem 90 (ADS 90) and has been tested in the summer of 1991. After testing by the Swiss Air Force, a new type of aircraft was included in the arsenal military-registered aircraft.

The registrations of all drones start with the letter D followed by a three-digit number. The drones of type ADS 90 Ranger received registrations from D-101 until D-106. The tender for the delivery of these six drones was made during the Armor program in 1992. The ADS 90 system consists of a control station and two drones with infrared cameras and drones equipped with four television cameras for observation in a hostile

environment. Initially, four drones were equipped with rocket pods with 40 clay missiles. However, this system was never put into service, because Switzerland has chosen to fly initially unarmed drones. Ultimately, the designation of the drone was changed after a series of intense updates to the drone to ADS 95 Ranger. As part of the armament program, the Federal Council approved a request for the purchase of four more drones each with seven missiles in 1995. The approval by the Swiss Senate and the House of Representatives took place in the autumn of 1995. The drones were delivered in 1998 and 1999. Eventually, they were only transferred to the Swiss Air Force after a series of complex problems on December 10, 2001. Eventually there were 28 drones ordered of type ADS 95 Ranger which are all delivered to the Swiss Air Force. These drones have been registered with the numbers D-107 until D-134. The drones which were commissioned are all unarmed and are only be used for observation and reconnaissance purposes.

The ADS 95 is a small drone with a length of 4.61 meters and a span width of 5.71 meter. The aircraft is quite light, because the drone weighs only 200kg. The aircraft can be disassembled to put the aircraft in a storage box. It can therefore easily be transported on a truck. The ADS 95 is primarily used in Switzerland for tasks such as aerial reconnaissance by day and at night, optical inspection and verification of information from other news sources and support for the fire control of artillery. In addition to these military tasks, the Ranger has also secondary tasks, such as; supporting the National Swiss Guard, support the police during the protection conferences and support for forest fires and avalanches and floods. Besides the 28 drones of the type Ranger, the Swiss Air Force has also bought a whole set of ground equipment. The equipment associated with system ADS 95 are; 28x optical sensors, 8x ground control stations, 8x communication, 8x catapults, 8x automatic landing systems, 8x mobile receiving stations, 4x mobile command posts and 1x a mission simulator. The ADS 95 drones are all painted in a brown with green camouflage pattern and have an orange nose with orange tail surfaces. Under the fuselage the drone has a multipurpose camera which, depending on the configuration, includes a TV camera with different focal distances or an infrared FLIR and TV camera which includes various focal lengths.

The Ranger Auto land Positioning Sensor (RAPS) is connected to the Ground Control Station (GCS) and the Ranger is able to land automatically. It's a sensor which in the field may be put on a tripod allowing the drone to know how it approaches; it actually is a mobile ILS indicator. The landing process is controlled by the drone operators. From the GCS the plane is launched and controlled by the pilot. Besides the pilot sits the Nutzlastoperateur (NLO), who is charged with the task to operate the cameras during the reconnaissance missions. There is also a commander present who in consultation with the artillery fire control and the Intelligence Officer may allow the pilot to use the instruments as camera’s. Using the Remote Control Terminal (RCT), all flight data are transmitted from the drone immediately to the receiving station. The RCT operator sent the processed data and captured images straight to the Intel departments of the Swiss Air Force. The drones which are employed by the Swiss Air Force were assigned to the Drohnencommando 84 at the airbase Emmen. Later the name of the unit was changed in Drohnenstaffel 7. The unit has been stationed on the north side of Emmen Air Base. The unit has a compound where all drones and ground equipment can be stored. Of the original 28 drones, there were already 13 aircraft lost in the past years due to accidents and costly repairs. The fleet has therefore become smaller than originally was intended.

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