Fliegerdemonstration 2009

Axalp-Ebenfluh, Switzerland

6 and 7 October 2009



In 1942, during the height of World War II, the Swiss Air Force's High Command realised that their pilot's air to ground gunnery skills needed to be improved upon. During that time the Air Force's EKW C-35, Morane D-3800 and F+W C-36 used improvised targets on e.g. lake surfaces. A more tactically appropriate location was sought and found in the mountains overlooking the village of Axalp and Lake Brienz, just to the South-East of Interlaken and close to the military airfield of Meiringen. The site, now known as Axalp-Ebenfluh, was put into use in October of 1942. Ever since, it has been the main site for the Swiss Air Force to exercise the use of air to ground weapons. Over the years, a wide variety of aircraft have used the range, from the aforementioned wartime piston engined fighters through De Havilland Vampire, De Havilland Venom, Hawker Hunter, Dassault Mirage, Northrop F-5E Tiger II through to the Boeing F/A-18C Hornet. Currently, the targets on the range are of the board type suitable for gunnery training. No bombing is undertaken. 

The gunnery season lasts from late September through to late May. Each year during the first week of October the Swiss Air Force allows the general public to view the proceedings. Going to Axalp-Ebenfluh involves a drive to Axalp village at an altitude of 1500 meters followed by a fairly challenging hike through the mountains to reach the range which is situated at an altitude of some 2200 meters. The reward however is the thrill of seeing and hearing jets thundering through the narrow valley while firing their guns at the targets. Associated with the firing demonstrations, the public days offer chances to view demonstrations by e.g. the Patrouille Suisse aerobatic team and a fair amount of helicopter action as invited guests and VIP's are being flown in from nearby Meiringen Air Base. 


The oldest of the two fighter types currently serving the Swiss Air Force is the Northrop F-5E Tiger II. The type has been serving since 1976 and is due for replacement shortly after 2010. In these views F-5E's can be seen going about their business at Axalp-Ebenfluh. Note J-3069 in the center image letting rip with its twin 20 mm cannons. F-5E's would approach from the west, the south as well as the north. During passes from the north, they flew over the spectator's heads while firing their guns!


The F/A-18C Hornets would only fly in from the west. After firing their guns, which can be seen in the center image, they would have the option of exiting the valley by turning left or banking sharply to the right. During the latter manoeuvre, they would create impressive shock waves over their wings, causing huge vapour clouds. Photographers of course love this sort of thing. 


The effect of the Hornet's 20 mm M-61 Vulcan cannon can be seen in the image left. 

Note the countless bullet holes in the boards. Three such sets are installed on the Axalp range, with the other two sets intended for firing from the north and the south. 

Following on to the fire power demonstrations, Captain Thomas "Pipo" Peier put on an impressive display with Hornet J-5020. The Swiss Hornet display already is impressive in itself, but was made even more so within the confines of the Axalp range. 


As already stated bove, helicopter action can be enjoyed on the Axalp range as well. The Cougar above left and below left can be seen discharging flares during its display. Above right, an Alouette III can be seen making its way away from the range. The type is to be retired next year 2010 and is to be replaced with the EC.635 seen above right.


AS.332B Super Puma T-319 and AS.532 Cougar T-342 took part in the VIP shuttle  from Meiringen up to Axalp. T-319 can be seen here on its way to the range over the shore of Lake Brienz. T-342 to the right dives away from the landing platform next to the Ebenfluh control tower for the shortest route back to Meiringen which literally is just around the mountain's corner.

This Hunter T.68, now in civilian hands with the Hunter Flying Group at Altenrhein, unfortunately made only one pass over the Axalp range on 6 October, catching many people by surprise. The Hunter can be booked for pleasure flights costing 6900,- Swiss Franks (4540 Euros) per 45 minutes. 

In 2002, the Swiss Air Force rather unexpectedly retired the BAe Hawk advanced jet trainer. After a short period in which trainees transited from the Pilatus PC.7 on to the Northrop F-5F Tiger II, The Air Force procured six Pilatus PC.21 turbo prop trainers. These now bridge the gap between the PC.7 and the F/A-18D Hornet. 

The air power demo's last act was a display by the Patrouille Suisse. Europe's only aerobatic team flying front line fighters impressed greatly by flying within the rock walls as can be seen in these images.

All in all, Axalp-Ebenfluh provided a great opportunity to catch military aircraft action away from an actual airfield. Although more difficult to reach than the average airshow venue, it certainly is worth the effort going to.


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink