From http://rt.com/news/swiss-fighters-office-hours-514/ on a recent emergency:

The Swiss airforce is only available during office hours. These are reported to be from 8am until noon, then 1:30 to 5pm. So, if planning an aerial invasion of Switzerland, nights, weekends, and lunchtimes are probably your best bet

Many news sources joke/claim that Switzerland is vulnerable to an aerial attack outside office hours.

What is the reality? An actual vulnerability? Or did they have complete control over the situation due to alliances with France and Italy?

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    Asking about vulnerability is going to be looking for an opinion, might I suggest asking if their air defenses actually have office hours? Don't forget that due to Switzerland's geographic location, their neighbors also provide air defense and protection which is why asking if they are "vulnerable" is going to be opinionated.
    – rjzii
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 14:41
  • they did, now the swiss are opening their airforce before 8 am (dutch link), they'll need a hundred extra pilot to do that though Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 10:56
  • If you look at the map of NATO, there is no way to get to Switzerland without flying over NATO territory, except from Austria, which they don't consider a threat. NATO does fly regular CAPs.
    – vartec
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 12:32
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    @vartec Never underestimate Liechtenstein. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 19:54
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    Switzerland does have an agreement with France regarding this but it still raises a few question: national pride of course and who would/could take a decision/give an order if something else than escorting a commercial jet was needed. Whether that amounts to a “vulnerability”, I don't know.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 20:58

2 Answers 2


The Swiss airforce monitors its airspace permanently, 24 hours a day 365 days a year. However, means to intervene in the form of airborne aircraft are usually available only during office hours. Exceptions to this rule include special security situations, such as during the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.

The last publicized case of a lack of intervention occurred on February 17th, 2014. Around 4:30am a hijacker forced an Ethiopian Airlines passenger flight from Addis Abbeba bound for Rome to land in Geneva. Italian and later French fighters escorted the plane, but Swiss fighters were not available and did not intervene.

Sources: Factsheet "Performance Spectrum of the Airforce" at the official government site (in German; French and Italian versions available). News report citing a spokesman of the Swiss airforce (in German).

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    Normally you'd think that monitoring is enough, because any intruder could be shot down by SAMs. Except Swiss don't have any long or medium range ones.
    – vartec
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 12:26
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    @vartec - For a small, high-up country, short range ones might be enough.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 19:11
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    @Bobson: their best SAM is Rapier with ceiling of 3000m and max range of 8.2km. It's role is described by British as "limited area air defence".
    – vartec
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 7:42
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    WRT the Ethopian Airlines hijack, you might note that the Geneva airport is something under 100 m from the French border (at midfield), and the whole 'appendix' of Swiss territory that contains Geneva is only a few km wide. (Possibly not even enough for a fighter jet to do a 180 degree turn.) A landing flight might be in Swiss airspace for under a minute.
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 22:39
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    @jamesqf: Flight radar shows how the plane crossed the French-Swiss border several times while circling the airport. The area is densely populated and not really suited for cowboy reactions such as shooting down an airplane.
    – pommy
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 8:35

I suspect that a reason for interception by military planes is so that, when a civilian plane accidentally-or-on-purpose flies into a "prohibited airspace", the Authorities can send a fighter to make visual contact and to visually tell the intruder to leave, instead of simply shooting them down with a Surface-to-Air Missile.

I say this because interception by a military jet is what generally seems to happen: What should you do if you are forced to enter restricted or prohibited airspace?

On the other hand I found this list of prohibited airspaces in Switzerland. Reading it, any/all prohibited areas in Switzerland seem to be prohibited only because they're a danger to intruding aircraft (e.g. because they are firing ranges), not because the Authorities are afraid of intruders (e.g. there aren't any no-fly zones over major/capital cities, as there are in some other countries).

IOW, perhaps the main threat is more to errant aircraft than to the nation. Switzerland's sleepy airforce only means that if a plane gets lost at night and wanders into a dangerous area, the Swiss cannot (except by radio) warn the errant aircraft.

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