BERN --- From 24 November to 18 December 2020, members of the Swiss Air Force will train at night with around ten F / A-18 fighter jets at the air base of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Leeming, Great Britain.
Called YORKNITE, this exercise in the north of England is one of the essential pillars of night flight training for the Air Force, which conducts nearly half of its nighttime jet exercises overseas. The COVID-19 situation has made preparations for this trip quite complicated. Bilateral approval of a protection plan will minimize the risk of infection.
The basic training of F / A-18 pilots in night flying (in preparation for night air police engagements) as well as the deepening and consolidation of night air warfare tactics are the objectives of this training module in the north of England. The conflicts of the past decades have demonstrated that engagements are increasingly made in the dark for tactical reasons.
A total of around 40 pilots and around 100 ground staff, divided into two detachments, will travel to Great Britain. The Royal Air Force's support point in Leeming, North Yorkshire, provides ideal training conditions for the Swiss Air Force. The large exercise areas are located nearby, over the North Sea; they will allow pilots to practice practically unrestricted tactical night flight, including supersonic flight.
Due to various limitations, the Air Force cannot meet international standards for night flight training on Swiss territory. These restrictions include the cramped size and small number of training areas, limits imposed in terms of altitude and speed (supersonic training flights are hardly possible), and service flight schedules. The number of air movements, the intensity of civil air traffic over Switzerland as well as the high density of dwellings, imply a limitation of noise pollution for the sake of the population. Swiss pilots therefore accomplish around half the hours of night flying than military pilots from neighboring countries.
Priority to health
The health and protection of Swiss Air Force and RAF personnel is a top priority. During Exercise YORKNITE, a protection plan approved by the Swiss Army and the host country's defense ministry will be scrupulously followed. All of the recommendations from the OFSP and the UK Department of Health have been incorporated into it. All participants will undergo a PCR test before leaving for Great Britain as well as upon returning to Switzerland.
An agreement between the United Kingdom and Switzerland forms the legal basis for the YORKNITE exercise.