Skyguide plays a major role in safeguarding the sovereignty of Swiss airspace. The company provides military air navigation services on behalf of the Swiss Air Force. And aerial policing and guiding military aircraft on training exercises from its Air Defence & Direction Centre are among its daily tasks.
The protection of the Swiss air space is guaranteed in collaboration of the Swiss Air Force. When an unknown aircraft penetrates Swiss airspace, the air police is immediately on the spot under the guidance of skyguide’s military air traffic controllers. These also deploy military aircraft from the air force airfields and help the military pilots with their tactical air combat exercises.
Air policing is currently the prime mandate of the Swiss Air Force. Any unknown aircraft entering Swiss airspace must be swiftly identified – even in adverse weather – and intercepted if necessary. This air policing secures the integrity and sovereignty of Swiss airspace, and supports the country’s air traffic management – skyguide – where necessary.
To perform this mandate, the practice to date has been to take patrols from ongoing exercises and turn them into live or hot missions. No permanent “quick reaction alert” capability has been available. Starting from 2017, skyguide will also provide services to the Air Force over the weekend. In the framework of the project LP24 (LP for Luftpolizei or Air police) the time of operations will stepwise be increased to 24 hours per day until 2020. Training activities for military air traffic controllers are therefore at full capacity.
LP24 missions are highly complex since preparation is short but coordination needs with different stakeholders very high. Most missions occur in the civil airspace and are managed by military skyguide ATCOs.
Skyguide is affected here at the Payerne, Emmen, Meiringen air force bases and at its Air Defence and Direction Centre (ADDC). The various processes involved here have been reappraised in close collaboration with the Swiss Air Force and modified where necessary. The greatest challenge for skyguide in all these developments will be to ensure that it has the personnel numbers needed to provide the services that the Swiss Air Force will in future require to perform this air policing function.
Our air traffic controllers are assigned to:
either tower and approach control duties at seven military airfields: Alpnach, Dübendorf, Emmen, Meiringen, and Payerne aerodromes, as well as at Locarno and Sion airports, where the air traffic is both civil and military,
or to fighter control duties in the military Air Defense and Direction Center (ADDC) located in our air navigation service center in Dübendorf.
Air traffic control service
Air traffic controllers in the tower and approach control ensure the safe and fluid handling of air traffic at military airports. They monitor and coordinate arriving and departing aircraft and helicopters as well as taxiing operations.
Military air traffic controllers in the tower regulate air traffic that is very fast, on short notice and unpredictable.
Military fighter jets, training aircraft and helicopters must be integrated with one another and with any civil air traffic, such as overflights, heavy transport flights and paragliders. The complexity can therefore increase dramatically in a short period of time, which demands rapid comprehension and a high level of concentration. For military approach control, the many different approach types, including radar, military instrument landing system or GPS-based approaches, are an exciting and constantly changing challenge.
Air Defense & Direction Center (ADDC)
When working in the ADDC, air traffic controllers are called “fighter controllers” and use their highly-specialised expertise to support air force pilots in tactical air combat exercises. They also manage all military aircraft in transit flights within Switzerland. Like civil air traffic controllers, fighter controllers monitor the airspace on radar consoles.
The ADDC also helps the air police with the critical task of recognising aircraft with a questionable identity. The visual representation of the air traffic – the so-called “recognised air picture” – is precisely drafted in the ADDC. This visual overview shows the sovereign airspace with all aircraft moving within it, and is produced with primary and secondary radar equipment.
Specific deployment procedures are used in air defence training, such as the protection of a given area during a specified period, e.g. the World Economic Forum in Davos.