Aviation Historian 31
P.Lewis - Switzerland's Tiger Force
A stunning photograph by PETER LEWIS of a Swiss Air Force F-5E firing off chaff in the twilight over the Alps in late 2016.
Eye of the Tiger - showing the type’s distinctive “wasp waist” and razor-thin wings, one of the Swiss Air Force’s F-5Es plays hide-and-seek in the clouds over the Swiss Alps in June 2014.
Tigers under construction at F+W’s assembly hall at Emmen. Each Tiger “kit” delivered from the USA would take an average of eight months to assemble, before the finished aircraft was test-flown and delivered to a Swiss Air Force unit. The airframes were rotated through the various units throughout the type’s Service career.
The F-5E was designed for manoeuvrability rather than pure speed. This view of J-3005 shows some of the features which gave the type its remarkable agility, including the distinctive area-ruled “wasp waist”, extremely thin wings with full-span leading-edge flaps (which worked in conjunction with conventional trailing-edge flaps), and tapered inboard leading-edge extensions, added to enhance airflow over the wing at high angles of attack.
Two-seat F-5F J-3212 and single-seat F-5E J-3033 in close formation in April 2016. The F-5F was not used solely as a trainer, three examples also serving as electronic countermeasures mounts. Note the single cannon (to port) installed in the nose of the two-seater.
Fighting strong westerly winds along the Rhone valley, a Tiger of FISt 1 departs Turtmann in March 2003. During 2004-08 Austria leased 12 F-5Es from the Swiss, all of which were returned after Austria’s acquisition of Eurofighter Typhoons in 2007. “Tiger Toni” was a regular visitor to Graz-Thalerhof, where he performed test pilot duties for the Austrians.
This one-off formation of four F-5Es with colourful unit tail markings was put together for a photographic sortie in the summer of 2017. In ascending order: J-3074 ”PA Capona 31” of Flight Training Unit 31; J-3073 with the “Vandalo fish” motif of FISt 8; J-3033 with 6eme Esc’s marching duck, and J-3038 sporting FISt’s 19 stylised swan emblem.
Sporting a pair of wingtip-mounted Sidewinder missiles, F-5E J-3007, wearing the badge of UeG unit FISt 18, departs Runway 11 at Dubendorf on a training sortie. Note the original black nosecone, later replaced with a revised grey “shark nose”. Motorway landings with F-5s were made for the first time at Munsingen in March 1982.
Anton Locher at Fairford in the UK after having delivered an F-5E to the Patrouille Suisse for a RIAT display. As a production test pilot, ”Tiger Toni”, as he is known in Switzerland, has accrued more hours on the F-5 than any other Swiss Air Force pilot.
Militia squadron FISt 13’s insignia incorporated an eagle with talons open, ready to take its prey, along with the unit’s number. The eagle motif was liberally applied to various F-5s used by the squadron during its annual refresher courses. The unit started receiving its Tigers in 1984, but was disbanded in 2003.
With F-5F J-3206 in FISt 11 markings in the background, Tiger pilots line up at the type’s official handover ceremony at Meiringen on October 30, 1979. The two-seat F-5F was essentially similar to the F-5E, but with a fuselage lengthened by 3ft 6 1/2in (1-08m) to accommodate the rear cockpit. The F-5F was fully combat-capable.
Carrying a dayglo AIM-9P Siwa on the starboard wingtip and an equally vivid 275 US gal centreline fuel tank, F-5E J-3057 is run through the J85 engine start sequence by militia personnel at Turtmann in the canton of Valais in March 2003. Note the camouflaged door of the hardened shelter built into the mountainside in the background.
The Swiss Air Force’s formation aerobatic display team, the Patrouille Suisse, transitioned to the F-5E in 1995, after more than 30 years of operations with the Hawker Hunter.
The Patrouille’s Nos 1 and 2 soloists pull up into the vertical over the Axalp range during the team’s 2019 training day, showing off the Swiss crosses on their undersides.
In August 1974 two USAF F-5Es arrived in Switzerland to give the Schweizer Flugwaffe a comprehensive demonstration of the type’s capabilities. The pair spent nearly two months operating from Swiss bases, including Emmen, Meiringen and St Stephan, where they are seen here in front of a typically dramatic Alpine backdrop.