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Our article as it was published in September 2002 in PTISI (FLIGHT) magazine

MIGíS OVER SWITZERLAND, FULCA 2002

 

From the 17th of April till the 3rd of May, Switzerland was invaded by German MiG-29ís as an unprecedented event took place at Dubendorf Airbase near Zurich. The Luftwaffe MiG-29ís of Jagdstaffel 1/ Jagdgeschwader 74 were invited for two weeks of Air combat training exercise FULcrum CAmpaign 2002 or FULCA 2002 with F/A 18ís of their host Fliegerstaffel 11.

This deployment of German MiG-29 Fulcums was unique in being the first occasion in which a foreign Air Force was able to conduct Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) over Swiss territory on a large scale.

Like all the other exercises in which the Swiss Air force conducts training with NATO countries as NOMAD (in England), the legal basis for FULCA 2002 was provided through a special agreement passed by the Swiss federal council which was also in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed by both Air Forces to promote their mutual training.

The primary target for the exercise was to provide mutual air defense training. For the Swiss aircrews it was the first opportunity to fight against a former East-Block fighter. An superb dogfight opponent on which the Hornets with their Swiss made Florida radar system could test their abilities. The MiG 29 with its helmet mounted fire control system, passive Infra red detection system and the impressive AA-11 "Archer" missile is a very worthy adversary in a close combat environment. And these kind of tactics were conducted throughout the whole training period. On the other hand the F18ís with their Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and AMRAAM systems in combination with the Swiss Alps as theatre, provided the German pilots also a strong training benefit.

After the arrival of the first 4 aircraft, the first few days were spent on safety and procedure briefings in regard of Switzerlandís terrain and airspace. Due to the close proximity of Zurich city and nearby local population areas afterburner take-offs were not allowed. Other regular resident F5 Tiger and Mirage 3RS sorties were reduced during the exercise so that the environmental rules were not obstructed. This was no large effort as most of the resident Mirage 3RS had left the base prior to the arrival of the MiGís to make enough room within the Dubendorf hangars to park the visiting aircraft.

On the 19th of April these briefings were continued when flying operations started with familiarization flights around Switzerland, which included some approaches to other airfields as Meiringen and Sion. After the weekend break additional MiGís arrived and then combat training began with a variety of MiG versus Hornet (1 v 2 packages). After this first week there was a chance in training from Close combat training to BVR training. During this phase larger 4 versus 4 sorties were executed. Also combined F18 and F5E Tiger packages against Fulcrums were seen.

When the MiGís finally went home on the 3rd of may, the conclusion was that it was a highly successful training operation for both sides and a significant political and military event for the Swiss Air force in particular. And already there were speculations of a visit of Swiss hornetís to Laage Air base in Germany next year. This however has to be seen as the MiG-29ís are in the process of being withdrawn from use (wfu) by 2004 (the first few aircraft will be wfu before the end of 2003). As announced the aircraft will be sold to Poland. Jagdstaffel 1 will however have the honor to be the first unit to convert to the Eurofighter.

If this exercise was a first of more foreign deployments to Switzerland and a step closer to a more international, less neutral Swiss Armed forces remains to be seen