Sermin Faki and Daniel Ballmer
The Patrouille Suisse is threatened with extinction – because the F-5 Tigers are coming to the end of their lives and have to be taken out of service. Or is there hope? In any case, Federal Councilor Viola Amherd (59) is trying to save the best-known aerobatic team. “We are examining alternatives,” said the defense minister on Thursday in Blick-Talk.
It is likely that life extension will result in replacing the Tigers with fan guns. How would this change the appearance of the patrol? Blick asks the man who needs to know: Air Force Chief Peter Merz (54).
«Jets need more space»
He knows the differences well, because in addition to the Patrouille Suisse, the Air Force has another aerobatic team consisting of nine PC-7 fan guns. The PC-7 team may be less well known than its big brother, but it is also very popular in the aviation scene.
Now what are the differences? “Jets are faster and need more space,” says Air Force Commander Merz. “That’s why we tend to go to the big air shows with the Patrouille Suisse. The slower and quieter PC-7s are often used on smaller occasions.”
The patrol travels twice as fast
In fact: While the six Tigers of the Patrouille Suisse travel at speeds of 200 km/h to 1000 km/h, the PC-7 take it easy with speeds of 120 to a maximum of 500 km/h.
Merz thinks both have their appeal. “The Patrouille Suisse impresses with its speed, its power and its sound,” he says, adding that the army is well aware that the sound is not appreciated by everyone.
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“The PC-7, on the other hand, are more of a ballet, there are tighter curves and therefore other figures possible.” And in contrast to the Patrouille Suisse, there are fewer interruptions in the performances – the viewers see the formation longer.
Commission wants to stay with Tiger
In the event of a switch to fan guns, the Patrouille Suisse (PS) would become a second PC-7 team. Does this make sense? Die-hard fans – including the majority of the Security Policy Committee of the Council of States – probably see it differently. Politicians have called for the Tigers’ decommissioning to be postponed. Amherd, however, reacted skeptically to Blick: “First of all, it’s a question of safety and then also a question of costs.”
Air Force Chief Merz does not want to give a rating. “We are evaluating all options on behalf of the Federal Council and Parliament. Ultimately, however, it is a political decision how to proceed with the PS. »
One thing is clear: Other countries, such as France with the Patrouille de France and Great Britain with the famous Red Arrows, are taking a different approach. They have professional squadrons with their own planes. This path would also be viable for Switzerland. But as Amherd says, “It’s also a question of cost.”
Loyal fans are safe
“It would probably be utopian to continue to operate the F-5 Tiger just because of the Patrouille Suisse,” estimates Roland Studer, media spokesman for the Patrouille Suisse Fanclub, in a similarly realistic way. Every decision of the defense department will be supported – even if the decommissioning of the F-5 probably means the end of the Patrouille Suisse with a fighter jet.
But the PC-7 squadron is also “very attractive,” emphasizes Studer. Maybe this season will simply be renamed Patrouille Suisse, but the fan club can also live with the current name. “We could certainly imagine them with fan guns.” But one thing is clear: The fan club with its around 4,000 members should definitely continue to exist – under the well-known name Patrouille Suisse Fanclub.