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Swiss Air Force to land fighter jets on A1 motorway in early June

Swiss Air Force to land fighter jets on A1 motorway in early June

Officials in Switzerland have confirmed that the Air Force will be landing its fighter jets on the A1 motorway at the beginning of June. The exercise, named Alpha Uno, will see a section of the motorway closed as planes attempt to land and take off from it.

A1 motorway in Switzerland to be closed from June 4 to 6

In a statement, the federal government confirmed that from June 4 to 6, 2024, the A1 motorway between Payerne and Avenches, Canton Vaud will be closed to drivers due to exercise Alpha Uno. Road traffic will be rerouted for approximately 36 hours as the exercise takes place.

The operation, announced in January, will see a number of Swiss F-18A fighter jets attempt to land and take off from the road. Sadly, as it is a military exercise and not a public event, plane spotters and onlookers are encouraged to avoid the area as it will cordoned off and secured by the Army - though those who wish to see the exercise are encouraged to watch live streams provided by the Swiss media.

Why are jet fighters being landed on Swiss motorways?

The idea of landing fighter planes on the A1 comes from a policy first implemented during the Cold War. During this time, the government realised that if Switzerland were ever attacked, the enemy would quickly target the country’s limited number of airfields and airports, swiftly rendering the Air Force useless.

Therefore, a series of motorway sections were constructed with plane landings in mind. The two-kilometre stretches of straight road have easily removable guard rails installed so that they can be quickly converted into runways. This allowed the Air Force to spread its aircraft more widely in times of conflict and “operate from decentralised or, in some cases, improvised locations,” the military wrote. You can see how it works here:

Video: Schweizer Armee - Komm V / YouTube

European tensions lead to motorway runway tests in Switzerland

While “motorway runways” were shelved by the Swiss military in 1995, the Swiss Defence Group wrote that “due to the deteriorating security situation in Europe, the Army wants to comprehensively and consistently strengthen its defence capabilities in all areas of operation.” Therefore, the exercise will be used to review their potential and test how the Swiss Air Force would react more generally, should the worst come to pass.

While the exercise may be popular with the top brass, the idea of closing part of Switzerland’s most important motorway has not gone down well with the Federal Roads Office (Astra). Writing in a statement when Alpha Uno was first proposed, Astra said that the closure “would probably result in veritable traffic chaos.”

Thumb image credit: Richard Whitcombe / Shutterstock.com

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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