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Axalp Firepower Demo - Swiss Air Force Live Shooting Exercise 2017
Where? Axalp - Ebenfluh Shooting Range, Switzerland
When? October 2017

The Axalp airpower demonstration (Fliegerschiessen) of the Swiss Air Force is held every year in the beginning of October. Located at an altitude of 7365 feet (2242m) above sea level the Ebenfluh shooting range provides a unique training environment for Swiss Air Force pilots to exercise their air-ground gunnery skills. Weather conditions for the 2017 edition of this famous spectacle were just right with some snow remaining on the surrounding mountain tops and splendid sunshine throughout the week.

Several thousand spectators climb the mountain every year to witness this spectacular show. Where the event has been cancelled in the past few years due to different circumstances – bad weather being one of them – this year’s edition was blessed with glorious sunshine throughout the week. This obviously made the trip into the Swiss Alps more than pleasant at a time when the first snowfall of the year can reach the heights where the event is being held.

Fliegerschiessen Axalp at the Ebenfluh Shooting Range

Though there is a bus shuttle from the valley and a cableway service from Axalp village, a 1-2 hour lasting hike still has to be done to reach one of the three spectator areas. The shuttle service is necessary as the Ebenfluh range shooting event became more and more popular and the small Axalp village just could not cope any longer with the large amount of visitors. People arriving by car nowadays have to park down in the valley near Brienz and use that shuttle service. Whereas going uphill the crowd is being distributed throughout the morning up until around midday, one down point are the large queues that build up along the cableway once the show is over as obviously everybody gets back around the same time.

Live Shooting Demonstration

Traditionally this opening of the shooting season is also combined with a small airshow to present the capabilities of the Swiss Air Force to the general public. During two days of the Fliegerschiessen in 2017 F/A-18 Hornets and F-5E Tigers opened the program by flying the shooting pattern and performed live firing training within the view of the spectators. While being overhead of the public, smoke and nozzle fire could be observed when pilots fired their bullets against the targets located in the mountain slopes. This was accompanied by the screaming sounds of their canons.

After finishing this so-called „parcours“ having the shape of a cloverleaf Hornets and Tigers performed a formation fly-by to salute the spectators. This might have been the last time for the Tigers to participate in the shooting demonstration, as Fliegerstaffel 8 will be dissolved this year and Tigers will only be used for air policing and adversary tasks.

Swiss Air Force Helicopters, Hornets and Tigers in the Alps

Apart from this impressive and unique live-firing the F/A-18C Hornet also flew a solo display in this alpine environment. Cougar and EC635 helicopters also take part since recent years with a focus on their Search and Rescue (SAR) and firefighting duties. Furthermore the new advanced trainer aircraft of the Swiss AF, the Pilatus PC-21, flew an aerobatic routine on the shooting range.

Patrouille Suisse at the Axalp Airshow

This unique spectacle was concluded by the Patrouille Suisse, who closed the 90-minute long program with a break and rain of flares above the Ebenfluh range. Spectators of the Fliegerschiessen  then returned back home with happy and sometimes sunburned faces, as watching the show from the officially designated spectator areas makes the crowd watching directly into the sun.

In the meantime, Hornets and Tigers have already recovered back at Meiringen Airbase and the Cougar and Super Puma helicopters were busy flying the invitees back down as well.

Note: Some of the images taken for this report include photos from the opposite side, which requires a steep and long mountain climb that should be carefully considered due to its duration and the difficulty of moving in Alpine terrain at an altitude of nearly 3000m.

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