France and Switzerland renew air policing agreement

France and Switzerland renew their cooperation agreement on mutual airspace surveillance and protection and air policing. 

Established in 2004, it is the oldest treaty of its kind in Europe. Therefore, it was time for an update on “certain operational, technical and administrative points of the agreement,” as explained by the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection (DDPS). 

On October 18, 2022, Brigadier General Werner Epper, second in command of the Swiss Air Force, and Air Divisional General Dominique Tardif, Deputy Chief of the French Air and Space Force, met in Meiringen, Switzerland, to update and renew the agreement. 

Under this agreement, the surveillance and control centers of the two countries share radar data and air situations to mutually monitor the airspace. If an emergency was to occur, fighter jets from either air force would be authorized to intervene. 

To ensure their interoperability, personnel from the French and Swiss air forces regularly hold common exercises, in which targets are flown across the border. 

Safety around the clock 

Until December 31, 2020, the Swiss Air Force was only able to police its airspace during “office hours,” meaning on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a 30-minute break during lunch.  

The surprising limitation came under fire in 2014, when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767, flying from Addis Ababa to Milano, was hijacked and diverted to Geneva by its co-pilot. As the incident took place at 6 a.m., the flight had to be escorted by Italian Eurofighter Typhoon and French Mirage 2000 fighters. 

 

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