2016 Event Review

Wiederholungskurs Sion 2016
Location: Sion (Air Base 14), Switzerland
Admission:By invitation only, closed to the public
Parking:
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10:Not an air show
 
F-5 Tiger

Embedded between high mountains in southern Switzerland lies Sion airfield (Air Base 14) in the Rhone Valley. For three weeks during February and March the Wiederholungskurs (WK) "refresher course" of the Swiss Air Force took place with the Squadron 18 (F/A‐18 Hornet) and Squadron 19 (F‐5 Tiger).

In addition to the full time personnel, 630 militiamen (reserved forces) participated who are required to train for only a few weeks a year*. They are the decisive reinforcement for the endurance of the Swiss Air Force. The preparations for a refresher course (WK) exercise include the installation of additional supplies and hardware from other sites to Sion in order to reinforce existing equipment. They affect virtually everything which must be present for the operation of an operational airfield reflecting the needs of the Swiss Air Force. Unambiguous communication is the most particular challenge during this exercise. Switzerland is a multilingual country, they speak High German, the Swiss dialect "Schwiizer‐Dütsch", French, Italian and Romansh. "Therefore, the teams must be linguistically fit, so they can avoid communication problems during decisive moments," according to the Air Base Commander, Colonel Pierre de Goumoens, General Staff.

In addition to the interaction of the ground crews, pilots partake in other training scenarios which they would not participate in during their normal daily training routines at their home bases. During the WK at Sion (8) F/A‐18 Hornets and (4) F‐5 Tigers participated with corresponding reserve personnel. During the visit of "The Aviation Magazine" the QRA was flown with two F/A‐18s. The call signs were Panther 1 and 2. As an alternate air base, Payerne has been set. Both aircraft were equipped with live weapons AIM‐ 9X Sidewinder (Air Intercept Missile) and AIM‐120C7 AMRAMM (Advanced Medium‐Range Air‐to‐Air Missile) plus integrated 20 mm Gatling cannon M61A1..

 

Squadron Commander of the Air Wing 14, Major Martin Hess, explained that his tactical area of responsibility are for the Squadron 18 (Fl St 18) consisting of the Hornets, the Squadron 19 (Fl St 19) consisting of the Tigers and the "Fliegerkompanie 14", the last two permanently stationed together in Sion, while AB Payerne is home base for the Hornets. The Fl St 18 is one of three squadrons of the Swiss Air Force equipped with the F/A‐18 Hornet interceptors. They constitute the backbone of the Swiss Air Force, flying the Hornets since 1998. The inventory of the Air Force currently consists of (31) F/A‐18 Hornets, distributed to the main bases: Payerne (Fl St 17 & 18), and Meiringen in Bernese Oberland with the Fl St 11.

The main task of the Swiss Air Force is the air patrol, also referred to as air policing. In short term, and in any weather condition unknown aircraft must be identified and, if necessary, can be intercepted. In addition to the participating Hornet squadron in the WK, the participating squadron 19 with F‐5 Tigers consist of reserved force pilots. All these pilots when not carrying out their military service are employed in various professions which do not necessarily have a connection to aviation. Currently there are (26) F‐5 Tigers airworthy in the Swiss Air Force's inventory, split between (3) squadrons. During this year's refresher course the Tigers of Patrouille Suisse aerobatics team, with their famous red and white livery were used.

The Aviation Magazine Media would like to express our thanks to Mrs. Delphine Allemand of the Media and Communications Office, Bern, Switzerland. Our special thanks goes to the Air Base Commander Colonel Pierre De Goumoens, of the General Staff; Major Martin Hess, Commander of Fliegergeschwaders 14, of the General Staff ; Mr.Didier Sallin (Press Officer Air Base 14, Sion) and Mr. T. Nyfelder (Chief of ground crews Air Base 14, Sion) for their generous cooperation, great hospitality, friendliness and assistance on base.

* The wages for the reserved forces members are paid by their employers during their time in service (generally 80% of their normal pay with the difference reimbursed by the federal government).
Report and photography unless noted by Peter Thivessen for The Aviation Magazine

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