Swiss Air Force practices motorway landing with F/A-18 fighter jets

South Today / X

The Swiss Air Force conducted landing and take off drills on a stretch of motorway as part of its ‘Alpha Uno’ exercise.

The drill was performed on June 5, 2024, where eight McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets landed and took off on a section of the A1 motorway between the towns of Avenches and Payerne in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

The section of the motorway was closed for 36 hours and cordoned off.

The F/A-18 is a multirole aircraft, originally designed for use from US Navy aircraft carriers. Switzerland currently operates around 25 Hornets fighter jets, which it will eventually replace by Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

According to the Swiss Air Force, the goal of ‘Alpha Uno’ is to test whether its fighter jets can take off and land at improvised locations. SwissInfo reported that the Air Force wants to strengthen its defense capability due to the “deteriorating security situation” in Europe, largely due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The last time that the Swiss Air Force performed this type of operation was more than 30 years ago in 1991, in the midst of the Soviet Union collapse.

The use of motorways as runways has gained popularity among NATO air forces. Called Agile Combat Employment (ACE) by the US Department of Defense, the operation is designed to improve resilience and survivability by dispersing air combat power from home bases to geographically dispersed locations, such as highways. 

The practice gained prominence during the Cold War era, and has experienced a resurgence of interest in the doctrines of Western armed forces as they prepare for high-intensity conflicts.  

The Finnish Air Force, which annually holds a road base exercise, performed the drill in September 2023, where F/A-18 fighters and various other Finnish Air Force aircraft took off and landed on a road base in Tervo. They were joined by Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35s and British Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons.

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