Alpine gunsmoke

The Swiss Air Force’s latest Axalp air power demonstration gave spectators a unique chance to observe air-to-ground gunnery by F/A-18s and F-5Es at close quarters. Dr Andreas Zeitler witnessed it and spoke to some of the pilots that took part.

Axalp 2017

F/A-18C J-5014, flown by display pilot Capt Nicolas ‘Vincent’ Rossier of Fliegerstaffel 17, dumps flares as it pulls up within the confines of the Ebenfluh range.
All photos Dr Andreas Zeitler

The F/A-18 is hard to spot. It first emerges as a shadow moving rapidly over the mountains. The fighter quickly sneaks in, pops up, turns in on the target and levels out. A moment later a short stream of smoke is seen leaving the gun muzzle in the nose before the remarkable sound of the M61A1 Vulcan sixbarrel cannon is heard. By the time the pilot pulls up and performs evasive manoeuvres to hide again in the terrain, the smoke has cleared from the target. At the Axalp live-fire demonstration such action can be witnessed from a distance of only a few hundred metres.

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