Zeltweg, Austria

Air Power 05

24 and 25 June 2005

Tucked away in a green Austrian valley to the sout-west of Vienna lies the small town of Zeltweg. Apart from the A1 Formula 1 racing track, the town also houses one of the two interceptor-fighter bases of the Austrian Air Force. On a regular basis,  Zeltweg houses the Air Power 05 Air Show. Sponsored by Austrian soft drink manufacturer Red Bull, the show has a heavy commercial bias with the flying display dominated by Red Bull's own fleet of e.g. a B-25 and even a Sea Vixen. However, the Austrian military is not to be overlooked.    

2005 was the last year he SAAB Draken could be seen flying in Austrian colours. In fact, it was the last time any Drakens could be seen airborne in military markings. Thus, many aviation enthousiasts made the trek to the Austrian province of Styria. They would not have done this in vain, for the hospitality of their Austrian hosts was superb, as was the weather on Friday 24 June, the first day of the show. This made for excellent photographic opportunities during the displays. Zeltweg saw a formation demonstration of the Draken, one of the last charismatic 60's vintage fighter types to serve anywhere in the world. The formation of six enabled the Draken fans to admire the aircraft's unique double-delta planform for the last time.

Saturday 25 June brought some thunderstorms during the afternoon. This image proves that such meteorological conditions don't necessarily have to spoil the fun of taking pictures. Note the tourching afterburner and the vapour pouring from this Draken's wing. It has been sprayed in a colour scheme commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Austria being mentioned in an official document, hence the stylized "996" on the upper side of it's fuselage. It was sprayed like this in 1996 and christened "Ostarrichi", as Austria was called in the aforementioned document. 

Of course, countries surrounding Austria took the opportunity to display their hardware. One of those countries was neigbouring Switzerland. In this view, F/A-18C Hornet J-5011, Fliegerstaffel 11's tiger-sprayed jet pulls hard into a vertical climb, causing the familiar vortices to form over it's fuselage strakes. 

The French Armee de'lAir demonstrated it's Dassault Mirage 2000C. This example is from Escadron de Chasse 5, one of three French Air Force wings to fly this type in the air-to-air role. Both the Mirage and the F/A-18 displayed their manoueverability to the full, aided in no small measure by the perfect weather conditions. 

Having seen what types like the Hornet and Mirage can do in European hands, it is a shame that the USAFE no longer displays their hardware to European audiences. Nevertheless, one of the two F-15C Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing from RAF Lakenheath could be photographed during Thursday 23 June when it performed some  tight turns following an overshoot during it's arrival at Zeltweg.

From the new to the old; the Hawker Hunter formed the backbone of the Swiss Air Force for some two and a half decades. In order to keep the memory alive, the Hunter Flying Group maintains a pair of two seat Hunter T.68 trainers. They are being flown from the airfield at St.Gallen-Altenrhein. J-4206, now HB-RVV in the Swiss civil register, was originally built as a Hunter F.50 single seater serialled 34072 for the Swedish Air Force. Bought back by Hawker Siddely in 1970, the Hunter was converted as a two seater and delivered to the Swiss Air Force in 1975, from which she retired in 1994.

Austria's mountainous terrain is an ideal working ground for helicopters. One of the workhorses among the helicopter types designed during the last five decades is the French Sud Alouette III. The Austrian Air Force still operates this type, a.o. for medevac type of missions. Shots like these could be made from a mound overlooking the base's western runway end.

Newest and most capable type in the Austrian rotary wing force is the American Sikorsky S.70 Black Hawk. Austria is the only Western European country to operate the land based version of the S.70. If it hadn't been for the 1999 Galtur snow avalanche disaster, the Black Hawk may not even have been in service in Austria. The US Army sent some of it's UH-60's to help out which suitably impressed the Austrian Air Force with their performance and nine were ordered as a consequence.

Several aerobatic teams were present at Air Power 05, one of them being the Spanish Patrulla Aquila team from San Javier's Grupo 79. 

Other aerobatic teams displaying their skills were the Red Arrow, Patrouille de France, Patrouille de Suisse and Frecce Tricolori. 

One glimpse could be caught of the interim interceptor-fighter that will take over the air policing task from the retiring Drakens. 

The display was opened on both days by a formation of SAAB 105's and Northrop F-5E Tigers. No F-5 was to be seen on the ground.

A dozen of the latter have been leased from Switzerland to serve as a stop-gap measure until the Eurofighters are operational.

Although the static show was a disaster as far as photography was concerned, it's air display and the opportunity offered to  photographers to view and photograph the helicopters on the base's north side as well as pre-arranged photoshoots with e.g. a couple of Drakens made up for this. 


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink