Is Switzerland's Air Force Always Prepared for Action?

Swiss fighter jets are now ready for action seven days a week -- but only during business hours, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. That’s an improvement over previous years, particularly 2014, when there were no Swiss Air Force pilots or planes available to respond to a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane that entered the country’s airspace and landed in Geneva, its co-pilot hoping to seek asylum. Budget restrictions meant that the nation's air defense system was essentially inactive on nights and weekends, although radar was always monitored around the clock. The Swiss Air Force began working seven days a week in 2017, but there likely won’t be 24-hour fighter jet support until 2021.

Switzerland's friendly skies:

  • The Swiss rely on other countries, especially France and Italy, to help guard their airspace -- but foreign pilots can only escort suspicious aircraft. Sovereignty issues prevent actual military action.

  • In 2020, historically neutral Switzerland is expected to regain control of its skies when it replaces its fleet of aging fighter jets with Swedish-built Saab Gripen planes.

  • The purchase of the Gripen fighter aircraft is not a done deal. In December 2017, a poll showed that 53 percent of Swiss residents opposed the move.

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