Sion, Canton of Valais, Switzerland
For a two-week period in March 2016 the Swiss Air Force engaged in their regular Repetition Training. Each year the training is rotated around the main bases of Payerne, Meiringen, Emmen and for this session, the picturesque town of Sion - the capital of the Swiss Canton of Valais. The airfield serves as one of the Swiss Air Force`s semi-autonomous Airbase Commands and is the operational HQ of Flpl Kdo 14 (Airbase Command 14), whose primary aviation component is Fliegergeschwader 14 (Air Wing 14).
Sion Airport was inaugurated in June 1935. In the same year, the Municipality of Sion entrusted the Valais Section of the Swiss Aero-Club with the operation of the airport. It also opened the first flying school in Valais. The Airport's location at the very center of the Alps had drawn the interest of the Federal Ministry of Defence, and a contract was signed between the two parties in 1937. Currently, Sion Airport is the only mixed airport licensed in Switzerland where civilian and military flights are operated side by side.
Sion offers many wonderful vantage points for stunning photography. Some locations can be found up in the mountains where you can photograph aircraft as they turn to line up with the ILS.
The F/A-18C and F-5 Tiger II flew from 08:00-18:00 daily as well as Monday evenings when night training continued to 22:00. The ‘after dark’ missions were flown by the F/A-18C Hornet since the F-5E Tiger II is not capable of night missions.
Due to the ongoing economic problems and the knock-on effect to military budgets January 2017 may see the last use of Sion by the air force, allowing them to focus on using the other bases which are better equipped to support military activity. As such the base of Sion is due to be upgraded late 2016 to fulfill the needs of a civilian airport.
However despite reports, let's hope that the air force continues to use the base for the next couple of years as it is a truly beautiful place, especially for photography.
The two main elements of this wing are Fliegerstaffeln 18 and 19, operating the F/A-18C and F-5E respectively. However this Air Wing only deploys to Sion for its annual Repetition Courses (Weiderholungskurs / WK) when its two squadrons move in temporarily from their normal peacetime operating base at Payerne. Other regular guests as the air base are the training sessions of the F-5E flight school from Payerne, which deploy six times annually to Sion.
F-5E Tiger II launches leaving the historical 'Castle of Tourbillon' in it's wake.
No matter what the wind or weather conditions, either end of the runway or up on the hills to the North in the afternoon delivers excellent results with beautiful backdrops composed of mountainous terrain and/or the picturesque and historic town of Sion.