Losses and Aviation Safety

Axalp Live Fire Exercise Canceled after Swiss Air Force found Cracks in the wings of F/A-18 Fighters

The flight activity of the Swiss Hornet fleet is restricted in order to ensure flight safety. However, the F/A-18s will continue to ensure the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) service.

The Swiss Air Force discovered new cracks during inspection work on the flaps of F/A-18C/D fighters on Oct. 9, 2019. As a result, the flight activity of the Swiss Hornet fleet is restricted in order to ensure flight safety.

For this reason, according to the service news release, the annual Axalp Air Power Demonstration scheduled for Oct. 10, 2019 has been canceled.

Noteworthy the two-day exercise, which was due to take place also on Oct. 9, had been canceled on Wednesday too because of the bad weather at the Ebenfluh firing range.

The Swiss Air Force chief of staff ordered additional inspections on the service F/A-18 aircraft.  In the meantime, the Swiss Hornets will have to fly at an altitude of at least 1000 meters (3280 feet) while over land.

However, the F/A-18s will continue to ensure the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) service to defend Switzerland’s airspace.

The F/A-18 fighter jets will reach the end of their lifespans of 5,000 flight hours in 2025. In its new fighter jet strategy, the country is extending their flight hours to 6,000 by evaluating and reinforcing structural weaknesses as well as replacing certain parts of the jets.

In June the Swiss Air Force ended the evaluation for the five types of combat aircraft shortlisted (Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, the Lockheed Martin F-35A and the Saab Gripen E) under the Air2030 program to replace its ageing fleet of F-5 fighter jets, and older model F/A-18C/D fighters.

As we have previously reported Saab has withdrawn from Air2030 program just days before the company’s Gripen E was due to arrive in the country for flight evaluations.

In a terse communique issued Jun. 13, Saab said it had been “formally recommended” by the Swiss national armaments agency, Armasuisse, not to participate in the flight trials. 

Switzerland had initially chosen the Saab Gripen E fighter but had to cancel that order after a 2014 referendum rejected the choice.

Hence the remaining lineup of contenders are the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Airbus Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale and the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II.

Photo credit: Swiss Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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