Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Laurent Cuvelier & Marc Arys  © sbap 2013

Each aviation passionate or professional knows the yearly exercise Axalp Air Power Demo held at the Ebenfluh shooting range in Switzerland. This year again the Swiss Air Force prepared the exercise foreseen in October with grandeur and invited their Swedish colleagues with their Gripen (future fighter airplane chosen by the Swiss). Saab was also present at the Axalp village so passionates and journalists could discover the aircraft or ask details regarding the Gripen to the Swedish company representatives.

Training started on Monday October 07, 2013 with an uncertain weather in the valley where the Meiringen airbase is situated. But apparently the shooting range in the mountains sat above the cloud deck so flying went on.

Two days were public days for those of us who had the courage to walk up the mountain for two to three hours departing from the winter sport station, beginning with a bus trip from Brienz and a night ride on the cable-way (05.00 AM).

As the adage sais: Axalp must be deserved! This year, October 09 and 10 were the public days, but weather on Wednesday morning was not very promising including the possibility of a cancellation which was due a little past 08.00 AM. Let us remind that this was also the time the first brave and daring ones reached the shooting range... as did our team and our colleagues of Silver Wing. After contact with the military authorities, the cancellation was confirmed for Wednesday and due to the bad weather forecast also for Thursday. So, no great pictures of this exercise but some taken at the Meiringen airbase during training flights on October 8th and a visit at Payerne on October 10th with the chance to have the 3 Gripen’s left back to Sweden.

We would like to thank Swiss Air Force, their press services and in particular M. Jürg Nussbaum for granting us the accreditation and his follow up to the press.

Please do also take note that there will be no Axalp Air Power Demon in 2014, focus being put on the 100 years of Swiss aviation and the Air14 event during two week-ends at Payerne airbase (August 30th & 31st + September 6th & 7th). See the official web page: http://www.lw.admin.ch/internet/luftwaffe/fr/home/themen/100jahre.html


(Serge Van Heertum)
Super Puma stationned at Meiringen for the event (Serge Van Heertum) The mobile control car (Serge Van Heertum)
When the orange light is on, the activities are ongoing! (Laurent Cuvelier) Taxiing from the mountain shelter to the runway (Laurent Cuvelier)
J-5019, leader of the first pair (Serge Van Heertum) High humidity means nice vortex (Laurent Cuvelier)
J-5024 at take off (Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
(Laurent Cuvelier) J-5003 leader of the second pair (Serge Van Heertum)
(Marc Arys) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
The last one the J-5023 (Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
EC-635 take off heading Ebenfluh range (Marc Arys) (Laurent Cuvelier)
(Laurent Cuvelier) A PC-7 as visitor for some touch and go (Serge Van Heertum)
(Laurent Cuvelier) (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
Mission accomplished, back to base (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Laurent Cuvelier) (Laurent Cuvelier)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Marc Arys) (Marc Arys)

(Laurent Cuvelier)

(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) This was the last mission of the day (Marc Arys)

Bad weather...the arrow indicate the tagets. All air to ground missions are cancelled
(Laurent Cuvelier)

Climbing to Ebenfluh range on October 9th (Laurent Cuvelier)
"Tomcatter", "Turbo", "Viper" & "Buzz"...SBAP and Silver Wing team arrived above just before the cancelation  (Automatic Laurent Cuvelier) Meiringen...nothing is moving...
(Serge Van Heertum)
October 10th, second day also canceled due snow storm above the 1000 meters... (Serge Van Heertum)
(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)

 

The Saab Gripen during Swiss evaluations
(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)

The Gripen chosen to wear the Helvetic cross.

To replace the F-5E Tiger, Swiss military authorities, after evaluation, have chosen the Gripen from the Swedish Saab company, 22 aircraft of the E-model. Other contestants were the Typhoon and the Rafale. The contract for the Gripen, worth a mere 3 billion Swiss francs, received the go ahead a couple of weeks ago.

After what seemed a relative hush, this purchase engenders an opposition by the left political parties in Switzerland. Indeed, they estimate the total cost of the contract to be more between 9 and 10 billion Swiss francs, including development, training and maintenance costs but also keeping the Swedish inflation in mind. Those costs become totally inacceptable for the left political parties gathered in an opposing association. What is more, these political parties denounce also the fact that for the first time the Swiss Air Force is buying an aircraft still on the drawing table. Indeed, the chosen E-model does not exist at this time, but according to the Saab Company, this aircraft will be equipped with the latest technological developments and will have no comparison with the C-model.

Last argument from the left parties states that the actual 33 F/A-18 Hornet are sufficiently up to defending the Helvetic airspace. Interestingly this new controversy was launched on October 08, during the participation of the Gripen to the Axalp exercise. Finally the socialist party, the ecolo-party and the GSsA (Groupe pour une Suisse sans Armée - Group for a Swiss without an Army) are putting up a referendum not to object to the buy of the Gripen (too late for that) but to object to the new financial law established for this project. The integration of the Gripen into the Swiss Air Force could be seriously jeopardized if this referendum has a positive outcome in January 2014.
But every new purchase of military material, in this a fighter aircraft, brings its own controversies. Remember the famous "sale of the century" with the acquisition of the Belgian F-16. So it will be more likely that one day we will picture the Gripen in action at Ebenfluh wearing the red roundel with white cross.

In 2012 the "F" model came for Axalp exercice
(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)
(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)
The "251" in action in the mountains
(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)
(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)
Artist view of a Swiss Gripen
(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)
Jakob Högberg, Saab test pilot in charge of the Swiss follow up
(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)

(Courtesy Saab via James Mc Veigh Communication Manager)
October 10th, the 3 Gripen based at Payerne prepares to get back in Sweden (Serge Van Heertum)
Coming out the shelter (Serge Van Heertum) The "251" (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
The "250" (Serge Van Heertum) and the operational "262" (Serge Van Heertum)
Full power take off in wet conditions (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Laurent Cuvelier) (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Laurent Cuvelier)
(Serge Van Heertum) Note the test markings on the "250" and "251" (Serge Van Heertum)
(Laurent Cuvelier) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
October 10th, some pictures of Payerne activities (Serge Van Heertum)
Weather at noon... (Serge Van Heertum) Weather at 3 o'clock... (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)
Fist missions of the afternoon (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) The J-5017 still wears the special 17 Staffel colour scheme (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Laurent Cuvelier) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) Note the real missiles firing missions under the cockpit (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Cargo sling training missions held the all day (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
T-367 in training (Serge Van Heertum) Second missions of the afternoon, weather being quite better (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Laurent Cuvelier)
Look at the bird... (Laurent Cuvelier) ...not far away of the plane! (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) J-5016 towed back on the line (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Note the new radar installation near the runway (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Laurent Cuvelier) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
EC-635 T-369 (Laurent Cuvelier) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
PC-7 A-940 back to base (Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)

The last missions of the day are accomplished, plane are coming back to home
(Serge Van Heertum)

(Laurent Cuvelier)

(Serge Van Heertum)

(Laurent Cuvelier)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Laurent Cuvelier)
Technical check before taxiing to the shelter (Laurent Cuvelier) (Serge Van Heertum)

Wing fold operation... (Serge Van Heertum)
Bye bye Payerne, see you next year for the great Swiss event (Laurent Cuvelier)

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