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Swiss Air Force Helicopters
A brief look at rotary aircraft in the Swiss Air Force, following 'Arméé XXI
With the mountainous terrain of Switzerland and its vast areas that are difficult to access, helicopter transport is vitally important to the Swiss Air Force.'Arméé XXI':
Following a referendum launched by the Defence Ministry, in May 2003 for the Swiss people, it was decided to go ahead (76% in favour) with a proposed restructure, called 'Arméé XXI' (Armed Forces XXI), of the air force. Under 'Arméé XXI', the number of wartime personnel is reduced from 32,000 to 25,000. In peacetime 15,000 will be active with the remainder made up of reservists. Under 'Arméé XXI', the following bases will be closed; Dubendorf in 2010 (Jet operations ceased December 16, 2005), Alpnach in 2007 and Mollis in 2005. This will greatly affect the Swiss Air Force's helicopter fleet.
Alouette III (V-250) flying through a snow covered mountain valley.
The Helicopters:
84 SA316B Alouette IIIs were purchased from 1964, with a final batch of 60 F+W Emmen built examples which were delivered between 1972 and 1974. Today around 60 Alouette IIIs remain in service, but with the proposed plans to downsize ('Arméé XXI') the fleet, only 35 will be retained. They are used for training, light transport, fire fighting and mountain rescue. The serials run from V-201 to V-284.
Purchased in January 2005 was a SA365N1 with serial T-771.
By 2008-2009 the Swiss Air Force is to start to receive 18 Eurocopter EC.635 and two EC.135 helicopters to replace the 35 remaining Alouettes. 
Left to right: SA316B Alouette III (V-261) arriving at Meiringen. Alouette IIIs (V-275, V-255 and V-270) at Axalp.

The fleet of Aérospatiale AS.332M-1 Super Pumas (Swiss Air Force designation is TH89) is composed of 15 aircraft, purchased between 1986 and 1989. Apart from troop and equipment transport, the Super Puma is particularly effective against forest fires. Two Super Pumas are permanently kept on one hour alert status for Search and Rescue (SAR) duties. They are fitted with FLIR and night vision equipment to assist the crew with their duties.  
The serials run from T-311 to T-325.
Eurocopter AS.332M-1 Super Puma (T-312) departing Meiringen in October 2005.
Left to right: AS.332M-1 Super Puma's (T-321 and T-312).
Two AS.332M-1 Super Puma's (T-325 and T-312) set off  for Axalp to collect the VIP's at then end of the show.


The first of 12 AS.532UL Cougars (Swiss Air Force designation is TH98) were delivered from 2002. One example (T-331) is equipped for VIP transport and normally resides at Bern, Belp airfield, the rest are used for general transport duties. 
The serials run from T-331 to T-342.
Eurocopter AS.532UL Cougar (T-340) during a display at Axalp.
Left to right: Eurocopter AS.532UL Cougar (T-341), showing its versatility by water bombing the mountainside as part of the fire-fighting demonstration.
Eurocopter AS.532UL Cougar ejecting 128 flares using it's 'ISSYS' self-protection system. AS.532UL Cougar (T-333) is about to touch down on the small landing area beside the Control Tower Ebenfluh firing range, Axalp. Note the 'ISSYS' self-protection system to the left of the serial number. Cougar cockpit in flight.

 
AS.532UL Cougars, T-342 (final aircraft produced) and T-339. They are both performing at air displays. T-341 is shown ferrying VIP's from 'Air 04' Payerne.
The Bases and Squadrons:
Currently the Swiss Air Forces helicopter fleet is divided between four bases, but the situation will change under 'Arméé XXI'. At Payerne under Lufttransportgeschwader 1 (Air Transport Wing) there is; Escadrille de Transport Aérien 1 (Air Squadron 1) and Lufttransportstaffel 5 (Air Squadron 5). At Alpnach under Lufttransportgeschwader 2 there is Lufttransportstaffel 6 and Lufttransportstaffel 8. At Dubendorf under Lufttransportgeschwader 3 there is Lufttransportstaffel 4. Lufttransportgeschwader 3 also controls Lufttransportstaffel 3 with helicopters based at Mollis. Each of Air Squadrons 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 following 'Arméé XXI' are now made up of a number of Alouette IIIs, and Super Pumas and or Cougars. Note, the helicopters are transferred from squadron to squadron as and when required, and do not carry individual squadron markings.

Bern Belp:
AS.532UL Cougars taxiing out from Bern, Belp airfield. T-341 carrying temporary code '2' when ferrying VIP's to 'Air 04' air show at Payerne and T-331 which is in VIP configuration and is based at Bern.
Alpnach:
Alpnach is the major helicopter base, situated south of Zurich in the centre of Switzerland. It is a particularly photography friendly base. A public road goes through the centre of the airfield to behind the long line of large hangars. A raised public viewing area has been built to accommodate anyone interested in watching or photographing the frequent rotary movements.
Alouette IIIs, V-266 taken by the viewing area gate and V-247 taken from the viewing enclosure itself at Alpnach and seen here arriving.
AS.532UL Cougar (T-331) which is in VIP configuration and based at Bern. This sequence of shots were taken from the viewing enclosure at Alpnach, and shows the Cougar arriving to pick up passengers, before departing just minutes later.