High above the village of Axalp the Swiss Air Force have a shooting range where their F/A-18 Hornets and formerly their F-5E Tiger planes can practice target shooting with live ammunition (known in German as “Fliegerschiessen”). Every year in October the public is welcome to observe a live firing demonstration with fighter jets. Combined with these exercises there is a small airshow showing paratrooper demos, SAR missions and of course the Patrouille Suisse. Axalp has become legendary over the past two decades among enthousiasts and showcases the skills of the Swiss Air Force in all its facets in the alpine landscape.
The Magic of Axalp
Every year, stuck in traffic, somewhere between Mannheim and Karslruhe, I ask myself why I bother making the same trip, for the same show, to the same spot, with the same beer and the same people.
And then the next morning, when I arrive at Ebenflüh and see the sun rise over the mountain tops, and hear the afterburners from the first Hornet taking of from Meiringen Unterbach Air Force Base, I’ll remember again: Because It’s Axalp!
There is not much like it: The Ebenflüh Shooting Range of the Swiss Air Force, at 7365 feet above sea level. Every year in the second week of October the public is welcome to see live shooting practices on the three designated targets. For years this week in October has been blocked in my agenda. From the climb up in the dark to the great atmosphere on top of the Mountain. In this feature I will try to explain what I consider the magic of Axalp.
This way up
The Axalp live firing event takes place at the The Ebenflüh Shooting Range of the Swiss Air Force. It sits in a natural amphitheatre at 7365 feet above sea level, and has been in use for target practice by the Swiss Air Force since 1942.
It all sounds like a very inviting place to spend an afternoon, until you hear that you have to climb all the way up the mountain from the Axalp village yourself, which is a two to three hour walk depending on your condition. Even when you take the chair lift up to Windegg, you still face a brisk climb towards the Brau hill initially, then up to Tschingl before reaching the Command Point (KP) at Ebenflüh.
Just before sunrise though, as you see the Hochnebel (fields of low stratus clouds) covering the valleys of the Berner oberland and the plains of Switzerland that lie to your north, you get instant reward for your excersise.