|Swiss Air Force Hornet fighter jets.|
On 29 December 2020, the Swiss Air Force announced that from the last day of the year two armed Hornets will be operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It marks the completion, on schedule, of the Air Police Service 24 (AP24) project. It was started 4 years ago and provides a 24-hour air defense service for Switzerland.
The AP24 project was launched on the basis of the motion of the Councilor of States Hans Hess and the consequent mandate of the Parliament. This project, which aims to achieve permanent operational readiness with take-off within 15 minutes of two armed fighters, was implemented in four phases. The first step took place in 2016: for 50 weeks, two aircraft were available on weekdays from 8 AM to 6 PM. In 2017 this presence was expanded to 365 days. Since the beginning of 2019, the jets have been on standby from 6 AM to 10 PM and by the end of 2020 they will be extended to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
15 "Hot Missions" and 290 "Live Missions" in 2020
The two armed F / A-18 jets are mainly used for "hot missions" and "live missions". The first are "blue light missions" activated by planes that violate the air sovereignty of Switzerland or seriously ignore the rules on air traffic. While the "Live Missions" are random checks of foreign state aircraft that can fly over Switzerland only with diplomatic authorization.
In 2020, 15 “Hot Missions” and 290 “Live Missions” were carried out thanks to AP24, thus making a significant contribution to safety and sovereignty in Swiss airspace.
Fleet availability is continuously increasing
The "Quick Reaction Alert (QRA)" fleet is based at Payerne military airport. In special circumstances (eg when the Payerne runways are closed for renovation), it can be moved to Emmen or Meiringen. As the technical staff is now available 24 hours a day, further maintenance work on the F/A-18 fleet can be carried out outside normal business hours. Thanks to this synergy, the readiness of the fleet is now continuously increasing, which in turn benefits the training and operational readiness of the Swiss Air Force.
In order to be fully operational at the end of 2020, around 100 additional jobs were required for a cost increase of around CHF 30 million per year.
Thanks to LP24 or QRA, the movements of fighter jets, if necessary even at supersonic speeds, can in the future also take place outside the standard hours for military flights to permanently ensure safety in the airspace of Switzerland around the clock.
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Written by Matteo Sanzani
Source: Swiss Air Force