Swiss Air Power

Posted by in Photography

for first impressions please scroll the gallery above the headline
(not all pictures will repeat below)

Most people never grow up in one respect or the other; and for men that often involves technology. To me heavy military equipment always remained fascinating. As you can read here, airshow photography marked the turning point in my photographic endeavours as it pushed me to buy my first digital SLR. Hence it is only appropriate to show some of the weaponry I shot (pun intended) in the past years.

One of the best places to spot military aircraft, be it fixed-wing or rotary, is Switzerland. The reason for this is two-fold: Firstly, Switzerland is short of flat space and hence they had to build their air bases close farmland and human settlements, that is: right in the middle of villages. Civilian and military infrastracture interfere to the extend that taxiways cross country roads. In case one of the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets need to taxi from or to the runway, crossing gates close just like at any railroad crossing. Here you can get very close to the jets. Secondly, the Swiss are proud of their independent military power and show it regularly at what is perhaps the world’s most spectalur airshow: Axalp.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet crossing a civil road at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet crossing a civil road at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

Some Swiss air bases, like the one in Meiringen/Hasliberg, are making use of the natural terrain. The jets are parked in caverns that have been drilled into the mountains and can be easily described as one of the world’s safest parking lots. The caverns have been built to withstand direct nuclear strikes. Right next to the airfield is the Oltschibach waterfall, providing an idyllic backdrop for Swiss military aircraft:

Eurocopter EC-135P-2+ VIP helicopter at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

Eurocopter EC-135P-2+ VIP helicopter at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

Pilatus PC-6 at Mairingen AB, Switzerland.

Pilatus PC-6 at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

Just standing at a public parking lot next ot the airbase allows you to see a lot of planes, with the F/A-18 Hornet being the Swiss queen of the sky.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18D Hornet at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18D Hornet taking off using after burners at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18D and F/A-18C Hornet at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18D and F/A-18C Hornet at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18D and F/A-18C Hornet at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18D and F/A-18C Hornet at Meiringen AB, Switzerland.

If you want to see even more spectacular action, the Swiss allow you to. You just have to climb a certain mountain during the mid of every year’s first week of October. Axalp air show is a Mecca for aviation enthusiasts as it is the only place where you can watch fighter jets perform spectacular stunts in the middle of a mountain range. You can literally look down on flying planes! Plus, at Axalp the Swiss F/A-18 fire live rounds of ammunition at targets on mountain slopes. Since they need to fire from 1500 meters away to be able to pull away before they hit the target themselves, the crews fire over the heads of the audience. See here some of the action (and please acknowledge that my last visit to Axalp was in 2007, using my very first and somewhat basic digital photo equipment):

Northrop F-5E Tigers at Axalp, Switzerland.

Northrop F-5E Tigers at Axalp, Switzerland.

Eurocopter TH98 Cougar (AS-352UL) at Axalp.

Eurocopter TH98 Cougar (AS-352UL) firing its complete chaff arsenal at Axalp, Switzerland.

Eurocopter TH98 Cougar (AS-352UL) at Axalp.

Eurocopter TH98 Cougar (AS-352UL) at Axalp, Switzerland.

Northrop F-5E Tigers of Patrouille Suisse at Axalp, Switzeland.

Northrop F-5E Tigers of Patrouille Suisse at Axalp, Switzerland.

Northrop F-5E Tigers of Patrouille Suisse at Axalp, Switzerland.

Northrop F-5E Tigers of Patrouille Suisse at Axalp, Switzerland.

Northrop F-5E Tigers of Patrouille Suisse at Axalp, Switzerland.

Northrop F-5E Tigers of Patrouille Suisse at Axalp, Switzerland.

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Northrop F-5E Tigers of Patrouille Suisse at Axalp, Switzerland.

I hope to get there soon again with my current equipment!