Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Swiss Post Office honors the Swiss Air Force

Yes, the Country of Switzerland has an Air Force. This is also a Swiss Navy and a Swiss Army.  I've see all of them in action during my trips to this central European country famous for its historic neutrality and home to many of the world's international organizations. Two stamp were issued on March 3,2014 commemorating 100 years of the Swiss Air Force. The 1.00 Swiss Franc stamp shows an F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter while the 1.40 Swiss Franc stamp shows a F-5 Tiger jet. The stamps will also be available in 10 stamp mini sheets.

The following article is by Laurent Savary of the Swiss Federal  Department of Defense.

Although balloons sporting the Swiss na­tional colours took to the skies in the early part of the 20th century, the first Swiss air squadron was not assembled until the start of World War One. However, its commander, cavalry instructor Theodore Real, had scarcely any resources at his disposal, and had to mobilize private air­craft owners, most of them from western Switzerland, who brought their own me­chanics with them. Three foreign aircraft were also requisitioned. From August 1914, the squadron was stationed in the balloon hangar on the "Beundenfeld" in Berne. However, the site was ill-suited to training the pilots, so, at the end of 1914, the squadron had to relocate to Diiben-dorf near Zurich. The pilots were seldom deployed during the war.It wasn't until the interwar period that the air force gained in importance, and, in addition to Diibendorf, other military airbases were established in Thun, Laus­anne and Payerne. The first fleet of air­craft ordered by official quarters were Hafeli DH-3s.    

In 1936, in the face of the increasingly critical international situation, the Swiss government decided to form an anti-air­craft defence. The airmen displayed tre­mendous resistance in defending neu­trality in Swiss air space until, in June 1940, three of them lost their lives above the Jura mountains. General Guisan then imposed a ban on Swiss interventions with fighter planes, which remained in force until October 1943. As part of the "reduit" strategy, the air squadron thendrew back to the Swiss mountains, where numerous runways were built. It did not resume active service until 1944, by which time thousands of fighter bombers were stationed throughout Europe. The air squadron's task was to intercept air­craft in Swiss air space and force them to land. It was a risky undertaking, as be­came all too apparent in 1944 when a Swiss aircraft was shot down by a US plane. Moreover, despite these interven­tions, bombs were dropped on a number of Swiss towns and cities, including Schaffhausen.  

During the Cold War, Switzerland pro­cured Vampire jet planes. Radar early warning and navigation systems rapidly evolved into a core element of the air force. In 1952, three Killer UH-12B helicopters were purchased for air transport. These legendary behemoths were based at mountain airbases such as Meiringen, Turtmann and Raron.     

 In the 1950s an attempt was also made to develop Switzerland's own fighter jets, but these ambitions had to be laid to rest after the failure of the P-16 and N-20 pro­jects. Instead, British Hunter aircraft were purchased. The acquisition of fighter air­craft always triggers fierce debate, as demonstrated by the popular initiative which, in 1993, sought to prevent the ac­quisition of the F/A-18 and the dispute surrounding the procurement of the Mi­rage fighter jet in the early 1960s, which massively exceeded the available budget. In the end, just over half the planned number of aircraft were ordered. Fearingthe spread of communism to the West, on the orders of the federal government, the terrestrial anti-aircraft defence purchased the "Bloodhound" guided missile system, which could be deployed swiftly and combat airborne targets at great heights. Sections of motorway have also been used as emergency runways since the early 1970s.   

Despite international tensions, in 1964, on the occasion of the National Exhibition and the 50th anniversary of the Swiss Air Force, the Patrouille Suisse was founded which, until 1978, operated exclusively in Switzerland. Eleven years later, another formation was created, the PC-7 TEAM. The fall of the Berlin Wall also entailed strategic adjustments for the Swiss Air Force. Deployments became more diverse and were extended to air policing and border surveillance tasks. The F/A-18 is indaily use as the "air police" and provides airborne support for the security forces at special events such as the G8 summit or the WEF. In April 1999, the Air Force deployed Super Pumas for the first time, to provide humanitarian aid in Albania. Similar missions have since been flown in Indonesia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

The stamps were printed by the 4 color offset process. The stamps have a size of 33 X 22 mm and were designed by Fredy Trumpi of Binz, Switzerland. Besides the stamps and mini sheets of 10 First Day Covers and Maximun Cards will also be available.

My thanks to Swiss Post and the Swiss Defense Department for the above info

To purchase these Stamps Click here

Mazimum  Card set

FDC with both Stamps

For more information on the Swiss Air Force Click here

Swiss Air Force Video1

Swiss Air Force Video 2