From August 23 to 30, 2019, six Mirage 2000-5 of the Groupe de Chasse 1/2 “Cigognes” participated in exercise Épervier 2019, from Payerne air base in Switzerland. This is an air training that allows French air defense pilots, to perform complex missions with the Swiss F/A-18 Hornet.
Arriving from Luxeuil Air Base, the 79 airmen joined the town of Payerne in northwestern Switzerland on August 23rd. For the 2019 edition of the exercise “Épervier”, the fifteen pilots of the “Cigognes” trained missions of a very high tactical scenarios alongside Swiss F/A-18 Hornet pilots of Fliegerstaffel 11. Organized by the Swiss Air Force, on their largest military air base, this bilateral exercise aims to consolidate the existing links between the two nations but also to carry out joint air defense missions: the main mission of the Mirage 2000-5 and Swiss F/A-18 Hornets.
To ensure the “first-in-first” air defense mission, the fighter jets trained four rounds a day for one week to deal with air-to-air threats during complex-level missions. mixed fighter forces operation (MFFO), also known as mixed patrols, composed of both Mirages and Hornets.
Fighting over the snow-capped Swiss mountains, the pilots, whether they are young qualified or more experienced patrolmen, play blue air (friendly forces) and red air (enemy forces) in turn.
On Friday 30 August one more mission was flown before the French contingent returned to their homebase in Luxeuil.
Every year in October, the Swiss Air Force organises the Fliegerschiessen event at Axalp Ebenflüh. Because of this, plans were made to travel to Switzerland for the event. The first day was spent at Payerne airbase, from where most of the fighter aircraft would fly to the range.
Payerne airbase is home to F/A-18 Fliegerstaffel 17 “Falcons” and Fliegerstaffel 18 “Panthers”, as well as to the militia Fliegerstaffel 6 “Ducks” equipped with the F-5E Tiger and Lufttransportstaffel 1, using the EC.635 and Super Puma helicopters.
Payerne is also the location where the F/A-18 simulators are located. At this moment a large construction project is going on at Payerne, where a new flight building with air traffic control tower is being built.
Throughout the day, up to four missions were flown by the based units. Next to this, several smaller aircraft like the PC-6 and PC-7 were seen.
F-5F Tiger J-3210 is a special aircraft within the Swiss Air Force inventory. After its active training carreer, it is now converted into an ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) platform, sporting several underwing pods to fulfill this role.