Tag: Swiss Air Force

Switzerland Signs F-35 Procurement Contract

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Switzerland Signs F-35 Procurement Contract
File image of A U.S. Air

Force throughout the Air2030 analysis.(Photo: Armasuisse) With the offer currently defined, 36 F-35s will certainly be supplied starting from 2027. The Swiss Government validated that the purchase program for the F-35 Lightning II has actually lastly been joined Sept. 19, 2022. The agreement, with a worth of 6.2 billion USD, will certainly give the Swiss Air Force with 36 F-35s to change the existing fleet of F/A -18 Hornets as well as F-5 Tigers. As we currently reported, the F-35 became the champion of the Air2030 assessment program that was targeted at choosing the substitute for the

Hornets as well as Tigers. The National Armaments Director Martin Sonderegger as well as the Swiss F-35A Program Manager Darko Savic authorized the agreement at Armasuisse in Bern, while the United States authorities have actually currently authorized the agreement. The purchase, which exists within the restrictions of the optimum economic quantity accepted by the Swiss body politic, will certainly additionally cover objective certain devices, tools as well as ammo, a logistics bundle, objective preparation systems, training systems as well as first training, in addition to the assimilation right into the Swiss command and also control system.

The federal government claimed that the 2 nations have actually worked out a particular stipulation as well as authorized a different affirmation which develops the set cost nature of the arrangement. At the very same time, the head of Air2030, Peter Winter, as well as the F-35 Program Manager, Darko Savic, authorized the countered arrangement with Lockheed Martin that will certainly enable Swiss firms to obtain agreements with a quantity of around 3 billion USD.

The Swiss Federal Council based its choice on the comprehensive technological analysis, that included 4 prospects for a brand-new boxer airplane (Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Boeing Super Hornet as well as the Lockheed Martin F-35) as well as the F-35 accomplished the greatest total advantage as well as at the exact same time the most affordable general expenses. You can discover all the information concerning the metrics utilized to assess all the challengers in this record we published in 2015.

The Swiss Air Force has actually likewise revealed on Mar. 24, 2022, that Switzerland has actually concerned an arrangement with the United States federal government as well as has actually specified that as much as 28 of the 36 airplane in overall will certainly be generated in Italy by the Leonardo business. That indicates at the very least 24 airplane will certainly be made in Italy. For 4 airplane, Lockheed Martin, as the supplier of the F-35A, is presently making clear whether they can be ultimately constructed as component of a balanced out task at RUAG in Switzerland; if this is not feasible, they will certainly additionally be created in Cameri.

About Stefano D’Urso Stefano D’Urso is an independent reporter as well as factor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A grad in Industral Engineering he’s additionally examining to accomplish a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions as well as OSINT strategies put on the globe of present problems as well as army procedures are amongst his locations of know-how.

It’s Official Now: Switzerland Has Chosen The F-35 As The Next Swiss Air Force Fighter

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An F-35A from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Four aircraft from Hill deployed to Payerne in 2019 for Air2030 selection. (Image credit: Claudio Tramontin).

The Swiss Federal Council announced Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is the aircraft selected from its New Fighter Aircraft competition. It won against the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and the Boeing Super Hornet.

As some “insiders” had already revealed last week, the F-35 has won the Swiss evaluation to find a replacement for F-5 Tiger and F/A-18C/D Hornet jets currently in service with the Swiss Air Force. As a consequence of the Air2030 evaluation program, the Federal Council has decided to procure 36 F-35A.

“The Federal Council will ask parliament to procure 36 F-35A fighter aircraft from the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the procurement of 5 Patriot fire units from the US manufacturer Raytheon. In the evaluation, the two systems achieved the highest overall benefit and at the same time the lowest overall costs. The Federal Council is convinced that the two systems are best suited to protecting the Swiss population from airborne threats in the future as well. It made the decisions at its meeting on June 30, 2021,” says an official Swiss MOD statement that also highlights how they also opted for the American Raytheon’s Patriot ground-to-air defense system over the SAMP/T of the French MBDA and Thales.

The Swiss Federal Council based its decision on the extensive technical evaluation, which included four candidates for a new fighter aircraft (Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Boeing Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F-35). Interestingly, the F-35 scored first also in term of costs: according to the Swiss MOD the Lightning was the aircraft “with the highest overall utility and by far the cheapest”:

All candidates have met the requirements for Switzerland. For both the combat aircraft and the Bodluv GR [missile] system, the evaluation for one candidate each resulted in the highest benefits and at the same time the lowest costs. The fighter aircraft are the F-35A. With 336 points, it shows the highest overall benefit, with a clear gap of 95 or more points to the other candidates. The aircraft performs best on three of the four main criteria:

• In terms of effectiveness , the F-35A achieves the best result thanks to its pronounced technological lead over the other candidates. Based on this, the F-35A has novel, very powerful and comprehensively networked systems for the protection and monitoring of the airspace. In this way, the F-35A achieves superior information and enables the pilots to be more aware of the situation in all areas than the other candidates. This also applies in particular to the everyday air police service.

In addition, only the F-35A is designed from the ground up in such a way that it is difficult for other weapon systems to detect. The resulting high survivability is a particular advantage for the Swiss Air Force.

In addition, the comparatively simple system operation and the information superiority of the F-35A change the training content and the ratio of flight to simulator hours. As a result, around 20 percent fewer flying hours are required than with the other candidates and around 50 percent fewer take-offs and landings than with today’s Luftwaffe jet aircraft, which will be replaced by the F-35A.

Ultimately, as the most modern weapon system, the F-35A can be assumed to have a technological lead well into the future. Given the intended useful life of 30 years, this is a major advantage over the other candidates.

• In product support , the F-35A achieved the highest rating due to its efficient operation and maintenance, advanced training and high security of supply during the entire service life. This is also due to the fact that the F-35A is produced in the largest number of units and is also used in Europe by the largest number of countries.

• The F-35A also shows the best result in cooperation . It offers extensive opportunities for collaboration in operations and broad access to data and technical resources.

• In direct offset , the concept of the F-35A does not achieve the best result at the time the offer is submitted. The offset obligation of 60 percent of the order value must be fully fulfilled no later than 4 years after the last delivery.

In terms of fleet size, for all four candidates the number of 36 aircraft meets the need to protect the airspace in an ongoing situation of heightened tension. The purpose of the Air Force is to prevent Swiss airspace from being used by parties in a military conflict.

In the last article, we mentioned the concerns about data sovereignty and cybersecurity the selection of the F-35 may imply. The Swiss MOD addressed them as well in their public statement:

“In its decision, the Federal Council also took into account the technological dependencies of the manufacturer and the country of manufacture. Dependencies cannot be completely ruled out when procuring systems. However, it turned out that all candidates guarantee the required data autonomy. With the F-35A, cybersecurity in particular is very well ensured because cyber management, the security of the computer architecture and the cyber protection-oriented measures are comprehensively guaranteed.

As with all other candidates, Switzerland itself determines which data it exchanges with other air forces via data link connections or which logistical data is reported back to the manufacturer with the F-35A. In addition, the aircraft is operated and maintained in Switzerland by the Air Force and RUAG Switzerland.”

Dealing with the costs, as mentioned, the F-35A resulted as the cheapest (with a difference to the second cheapest candidate around 2.16B USD (2B CHF):

In addition to the benefits, the F-35A also achieved by far the best result in terms of costs. Both procurement and operation are cheapest for this aircraft. The procurement costs at the time of the offers in February 2021 amount to CHF 5.068 billion. They are clearly within the specified financial volume of 6 billion francs that the electorate has decided. Even if the inflation is added up to the time of payment, the procurement costs are within the credit limit.

The F-35A is also the cheapest aircraft of all providers in terms of operating costs. The total costs, which consist of procurement and operating costs, amount to around 15.5 billion Swiss francs over 30 years for the F-35A.

The difference to the second cheapest candidate is in the region of CHF 2 billion.

“We are honored to be selected by Switzerland and look forward to partnering with the Swiss government, public, air force and industry to deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft,” said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 Program in a public statement. “With the selection, Switzerland will become the 15th nation to join the F-35 program of record, joining several European nations in further strengthening global airpower and security.”

According to Lockheed, the Swiss F-35 will deliver economic and technical advantages to the nation for decades to come. Swiss industry will have the opportunity to participate in research and development, production and sustainment opportunities that will extend their capabilities into the future. As a new participant in the F-35 program, Switzerland will benefit from Lockheed Martin’s dedication to autonomy and sovereignty in integrating indigenous solutions.

It’s not clear where the Swiss F-35 jets will be assembled: Cameri FACO (Final Assembly and Check Out) facility in northwestern Italy, where Italian and Dutch F-35s are assembled is quite close to Switzerland.

“To date, the F-35 operates from 21 bases worldwide, with nine nations operating F-35s on their home soil. There are more than 655 F-35s in service today, with more than 1,380 pilots and 10,670 maintainers trained on the aircraft,” proudly says Lockheed Martin. In the end, no matter the criticism or issues, the F-35 continues to win all around the world.

Global Patriot

Dealing with the Patriot, the offer for Switzerland was proposed by Raytheon Technologies, in partnership with Swiss-based Rheinmetall Air Defence AG and Mercury Systems, Inc. “We value the trust that Switzerland has placed in our team and in the advanced capabilities of our Global Patriot solution. Our Raytheon, Rheinmetall and Mercury team will work with industry to deliver the Swiss Patriot system to meet Switzerland’s air defense needs and safeguard its sovereignty,” said Tom Laliberty, Raytheon Technologies vice president of Land Warfare and Air Defense.

Patriot will be procured via the Foreign Military Sales process with the U.S. Army; when the sale is complete, Switzerland will become the 18th member of a Global Patriot network, which includes seven other European countries.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Swiss PC-21 Trainers Deploy For Training Exchange With The Italian Air Force

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File photo of two PC-21s during a training mission in Switzerland. (Photo: Pilatus/Swiss Air Force)

Six Swiss PC-21 trainers will stay for ten days in southern Italy to train with the 61st Wing, their Italian counterpart for jet pilot training.

The Swiss Air Force is taking part in a 10-day training exchange with the Italian Air Force at Lecce-Galatina Air Base in the Apulia region in southern Italy. The training campaign, named “AMA ITA 21”, involves six Pilatus PC-21 trainers (serials A-102, A-104, A-105, A-106, A-107, A-108), six professional military student pilots (Swiss denomination for active duty pilots) of the Class 15/17, seven instructors and a team of eleven maintainers.

“We carry out this kind of training and improvement deployments abroad, in different countries, with all classes of the pilot school,” explained Lieutenant Colonel Michael von Jenner, flight instructor on PC-21 and detachment commander for “AMA ITA 21”. The last time the Swiss Air Force deployed to Lecce-Galatina was in 2012 and a new deployment last year had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and postponed to 2021.

The Swiss, which are usually based at Emmen Air Base’s Pilot School Command, will be guests of their Italian counterpart, the 61° Stormo (Wing), until July 1, 2021, as part of a cooperation plan between the two countries. The aircraft arrived in Apulia on June 22, after a technical stop at Grosseto Air Base, and begun flying their first training missions the following day.

Just a few days earlier, the Chiefs of Staff of both air forces, Lt. Gen. Alberto Rosso and Maj. Gen. Bernhard Müller, met in Rome after the renovation of the cooperation agreements which focus on training and airspace safety. Following the meeting, Major General Müller visited Lecce-Galatina Air Base and was briefed about the base’s activities, its mission and vision ahead of the arrival of the PC-21s.

Many goals have been set for “AMA ITA 21”, first of all the planning and execution of these training deployments abroad and the low level navigation and tactical training over an unfamiliar terrain. Another big goal is the exchange of experiences between the pilots of the two countries, further amplified by pilots taking part in training flights as passengers on their counterpart’s aircraft (Italian pilots flying on Swiss PC-21s and vice versa).

The Swiss Air Force operates a total of eight PC-21 trainers, acquired beginning from 2008. The PC-21 renovated the training of Swiss pilots, allowing a more practical transition from the PC-7 to the PC-21 and finally to the F/A-18 Hornet, as opposed to the older training system who required the pilots to transition from the PC-7 to the F-5 Tiger and then to the F/A-18.

Swiss PC-21 Italy
File photo of the PC-21 prototype during an evaluation flight in Switzerland. (Photo: Pilatus)

The F-5 was not considered, in fact, the ideal training platform to satisfy the requirement needed by future F/A-18 pilots. Instead of the old “steam gauges” of the Tiger, the PC-21 has a sophisticated glass cockpit that enables to satisfy all the advanced training requirements, but the downside is that its Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop provides limited powered compared to a jet engine.

Military flight training in Switzerland takes two years, with 30 weeks on the PC-7 and 45 weeks on the PC-21. During the latter, student pilots will undergo the technical conversion, instrument flight training (IFR), formation flying, navigation, air-to-ground attack, air policing and air warfare. The entire training cycle envisions a total of 210 missions for each student before they can successfully graduate.

The F/A-18 Hornet is not going to stay much more time in the inventory of the Swiss Air Force, with retirement planned by 2030. Because of this, as we have already reported, the government launched the “Air 2030” program to select its future fighter and evaluated four candidate aircraft: the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, and the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. A fifth candidate, the Gripen E, saw its evaluation cancelled after the Swiss procurement agency stated that only aircraft already operational in 2019 would be evaluated.

Last week, the Swiss public television reported that the F-35A won the evaluation, according to “insiders”. Should this be confirmed by the government, it would provide another chance of future cooperation with the Italian Air Force, as it already operates the type. The formal announcement of the winner of “Air 2030” is expected by June 30, 2021.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Citing “Insiders” Swiss Public Television Says The F-35 Has Won The Swiss Air Force Fighter Jet Evaluation

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One of the F-35A of the U.S. Air Force that took part in the evaluation of the Swiss Air Force at Payerne Air Base, Switzerland. (Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

According to a Swiss public television report the Lockheed Martin F-35 is well ahead of its competitors in the race for the next Swiss Air Force fighter.

On Monday Jun. 21, 2021, the Swiss public television SRF reported that the Lockheed Martin F-35 has won the Swiss evaluation to find a replacement for F-5 Tiger and F/A-18C/D Hornet jets currently in service with the Swiss Air Force.

Three independent sources confirmed the “Rundschau” (a political and economic program on Swiss Radio and Television – SRF) that: “Both financially and technically, the stealth jet is well ahead of the F / A-18 Super Hornet, the Eurofighter and the Rafale. Defense Minister Viola Amherd (Die Mitte) therefore has no choice but to apply to the Federal Council to buy the F-35. The DDPS [Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport] itself refuses to comment and refers to the confidentiality of Federal Council business. According to insiders, the preparations for the eagerly awaited Federal Council decision are well advanced. A media release had already been written about the purchase of the F-35 in draft – but the entire Federal Council could still decide otherwise.”

In 2014, when a referendum rejected the acquisition of the Saab Gripen (to replace the F-5E), the Swiss Air Force launched “Air 2030” program aimed to the selection of its future fighter. As part of the program, the service carried out the evaluation of four candidate aircraft: the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, and the Lockheed Martin F-35. A fifth candidate, Gripen E, was retired before its evaluation even started after the Swiss procurement agency, “formally recommended” that Saab stayed home as flight tests had been designed to only evaluate aircraft that were operationally ready in 2019.

On Jan. 10, 2020, armasuisse issued the second RFQ for new fighter aircraft to the government authorities where the four potential suppliers are located: Germany (Airbus Eurofighter), France (Dassault Rafale) and the U.S. (Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35A).

“The second request for proposal is based on the analysis of the first proposal and on findings from flight, simulator and ground tests as well as audits with armed forces operating the evaluated fighter aircraft. In the second request for proposal, the companies contacted via the government authorities are requested to submit the most advantageous offer for Switzerland.

The proposal should include the following elements:

  • prices for 36 and 40 aircraft, including defined logistics and weapons, as a binding starting point for the detailed negotiations with the selected candidate after the type selection
  • offers for cooperation between the armed forces and the procurement authorities of Switzerland and those of the supplier country
  • envisaged or already initiated offset projects”

In September 2020, Swiss voters narrowly approved a CHF6 billion (6.49B USD) funding packet that allowed the Swiss Air Force to go ahead with the purchase of new aircraft.

Therefore, in spite of the criticism and well known issues, it looks like the F-35 has convinced the Swiss Air Force that it has an edge on its three competitors, not only from a technical point of view but also in terms of cost. According to the insiders who talked to SRF, Switzerland can buy a larger number of F-35s with the budgeted 6.5 billion USD than would be the case with the three competitors.

Its simulator is also mentioned as one of the keys of its (alleged) success in Switzerland: it allows the Swiss Air Force to carry out significantly more training missions than with the competition. This is particularly interesting, especially if we consider what other partner nations are doing (or not doing) in terms of LVC (Live Virtual Constructive)

Indeed, in the field of virtual reality and simulators, the future is represented by the LVC architectures that allow the interconnection of airplanes in flight with land-based simulators via datalinks so as to create very complex scenarios involving CGF (Computer Generated Forces). “The F-35 is ready for LVC. However, at the moment, there are cybersecurity criteria and operational relevance considerations that make its use premature: it is a segment that has not reached the level of maturity necessary to be employed operationally,” told us Col. Marzinotto, the commander of the 32° Stormo (Wing), the Italian Air Force unit that has been the first to operate the F-35 in Europe. “In the future, the need to connect in-flight aircraft and simulators will be reconsidered, but for the time being such hybrid scenarios are not part of the training process of the Italian F-35 pilots.” It would be interesting to understand whether the simulator system showcased to the Swiss Air Force is the same used by the Italian Air Force or is an upgraded version that has possibly reached the level of maturity the Italians hoped for.

Anyway, the winner of the Swiss competition should be formally announced by June 30, 2021 and the delivery of the new aircraft is slated to start in 2025 and end in 2030, if everything goes as planned…

In fact, while the decision will be taken by the entire Federal Council at least two of the seven Federal Council members would prefer a European fighter jet, SRF said, and critics (including the Group for a Switzerland without an Army, the leftwing Social Democratic Party and the Green Party) have promised to launch a referendum against any decision to buy a U.S. fighter jet. They fear that data sovereignty and security would not be guaranteed and would prefer the Swiss pilots to fly Eurofighter or Rafale. Let’s see what happens: the decision, as it often happens, will not be “just” technical.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger Aircraft Crashes In Central Switzerland. Pilot Successfully Ejects.

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File photo of J-3089 arriving at the 2016 Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford, UK. (Image credit: Adrian Pingstone)

Impressive photographs showing the pilot ejecting from the Swiss Air Force F-5 before the crash have been published on social media.

A Northrop F-5E Tiger II jet of the Swiss Air Force crashed around 09.00AM LT on May 26, 2021, near Melchsee-Frutt, in central Switzerland. The pilot successfully ejected from the aircraft.

According to the details released by the Swiss MOD, the Tiger had taken off from Payerne Air Base, and was involved in an air-to-air training mission, flying as an adversary (“sparring partner”) for a Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornet, when the incident occurred.

The crash, whose causes are being investigated, happened in an uninhabited area among the mountains. Images from the crash site show an almost intact airframe painted in the color of the Patrouille Suisse, the Swiss Air Force demonstration team.

A bystander managed to take some photographs of the ejection and subsequent crash.

Some Swiss outlets reported the airframe involved in the incident as J-3089.

The Swiss Air Force is believed to operate 26 F-5 Tigers, purchased in 1978. In September 2020, with a really thin margin of just 9,000 votes, Swiss citizens have approved the multi-billion procurement of new fighter jets to replace both the F-5 and F/A-18 jets in service today.

The “Air 2030” program aimed to the selection of the future Swiss fighter included the evaluation of four candidate aircraft: the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, and the Lockheed Martin F-35. A fifth candidate, Gripen E, was retired before its evaluation initially planned for the end of June 2019, after the Swiss procurement agency, “formally recommended” that Saab stayed home as flight tests had been designed to only evaluate aircraft that were operationally ready in 2019. The winner should be announced before the end of next month.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Swiss F/A-18D Hornet Sports Markings For MQM-178 Target Drone Kill With AIM-120C-7 During Tests in Sweden

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The F/A-18D J-5233 taxies at Meiringen on Sept. 14, 2020. (Image credit: The Aviationist/Alessandro Fucito)

In September 2018, the Swiss Air Force sent two of its Hornets, from Emmen, Switzerland, to Vidsel Air Base, Sweden, for a testing campaign with the AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile). From Sept. 20 to Oct. 12, 2018, the Swiss aircraft (a single seater F/A-18C and a two-seater F/A-18D) were involved in a series of missile tests over the Vidsel Test Range, located in the north part of the country.

With its 7,200 km² of restricted airspace and 3,300 km² restricted ground space, Vidsel is the largest over ground test facility in Europe, often used by defense organizations and industries for testing various weapon systems.

A map of Vidsel Range. (Image credit: FMV Vidsel Range)

The AIM-120C-7

The AIM-120C-7 (sometimes referred to as AIM-120C7) has been under development since 1998. It is an upgraded variant of the AIM-120C AMRAAM and features extended range and enhancements in homing capability.

An AIM-120C on an F-16 at Aviano AB. (Image credit: USAF).

Back in 2010, at an estimated cost of 318M USD, the Government of Switzerland requested the purchase of 150 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM, 6 AIM-120C-7 Telemetry Missiles, 24 AIM-120C-7 Captive Air Training Missiles, 1 spare Missile Guidance Section, missile containers, weapon system support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documents, repair and return, depot maintenance, training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. A first batch of equipment was delivered to Payerne Air Base, using a U.S. Air Force C-17A #07-7175 flying as RCH386, on Sept. 21, 2016.

As part of the firing activities carried out with the latest generation’s AMRAAM in 2018, the F/A-18C Hornet fired the AIM-120C-7 at Kratos MQM-178 FireJet target drones.

The MQM-178

The Kratos MQM-178 Firejet is one of the aerial target drones available at the Vidsel range (the other being the BQM-167i). According to the company’s website, “it fills a variety of end-to-end weapons-release training roles, including surface-to-air and air-to-air. Capable of flying a wide variety of speed and maneuverability profiles, Firejet delivers a high degree of versatility by providing the opportunity to test multiple weapon systems with one flexible and affordable aerial target system.”

The MQM-178 features a max speed of M0.76 and a high-maneuvrability: 10 g instantaneous and 6 g sustained.

With a length of 3.3 m and a dry weight of 59 kg, the MQM-178 is the smallest of Kratos’ aerial targets. It is capable of carrying a combination of internal and external payloads, including tow targets, proximity scoring, passive & active (RF) augmentation, and infrared (IR) augmentation. Depending on the scope of the test, it can carry Luneburg lens (LL), miss distance indicator (MDI), Infrared (IR), passive and active radio frequency (RF) and dispenser for chaffs and flares. It is pneumatically launched, meaning that it doesn’t need Rocket-Assisted Take-Off (RATO) equipment and facilities.

F/A-18D Markings

Interestingly, some time after the test, the two seater, J-5033, was given some special markings for deployment: the badge of the 2018 campaign along with the silhouettes of an AMRAAM and a FireJet target drone appear between the canopy and the LERX (Leading Edge Root Extension) in the nose section of the jet. The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Fucito took the photos of the aircraft last week at Meiringen Air Base.

Considered that two F-18s were involved in the firing campaign, it seems quite likely that the same markings were also applied to the C model, however, we haven’t been able to find it yet. If you have some details or photos about it, please let us know. In the meanwhile, it’s worth highlighting that it is not clear whether the D model fired the missile(s) or just supported the tests flying as “chase”, as planned.

Noteworthy, a Swiss Air Force F/A-18C had already fired an AIM-120C-7 missile as part of “Thor’s Hammer” exercise at Vidsel in December 2014.

The two-seater J-5233 takes off from Meiringen AB.