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Photography Trip Reports

Trip reports from my photography adventures in the U.K and abroad.

November 2021

Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornets in the Lake District. On the 15th November 2021 Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe) F/A‑18C and F/A‑18D Hornets arrived at RAF Leeming, Yorkshire, for the month‑long Exercise Yorknite 2021, which provides the Swiss aircrew with valuable training in low‑level navigation, Air Combat Tactic and Basic Fighter Manoeuvre training, air‑to‑air refuelling and night flying air policing training.

The Swiss deployed to RAF Leeming because Switzerland being a small country with a dense population has limited airspace for low‑level and night flying training compared to the UK. During the months October to March their training is further restricted to only one evening per week due to the risk of avalanches.

Now in its third year the exercise gives the pilots a large percentage of night‑flying hours required for their entire years training and a chance to hone their skills against their RAF and USAF counterparts.

Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet Swiss Air Force F/A-18C routing low-level through the Lake District, LFA17.

The Swiss brought aircrew and military personnel from all three Hornet fighter squadrons: Fliegerstaffel 11 ‘Tigers’ based at Meiringen, Fliegerstaffel 17 ‘Falcons’ and 18 ‘Panthers’ based at Payerne. The aircraft are shared between all three squadrons and have no squadron markings apart from serial J‑5018 which has the Fliegerstaffel 18 ‘Panthers’ special tail art. In addition this year, three Eurocopter AS.532UL Cougar helicopters were brought to train at the Electronics Warfare Tactics facility at RAF Spadeadam, Cumbria.

To maximise my chances of catching the Swiss low‑level i spent the first two weeks of their deployment in the Lake District (Monday 15th to Friday 26th November). The first week i did not see them, maybe due to the unpredictable British weather or their training schedule did not involve any low‑level sorties. The second week all changed, with the Swiss Hornets routing through the Lake District a number of times, the highlight being Thursday 25th November when Fliegerstaffel 18 ‘Panthers’ special tail led a two‑ship formation, which was followed two minutes later by a three‑ship formation. All passes were by the ‘C’ model Hornets. Sadly no Cougar helicopters were seen, but a three‑ship formation was captured by fellow photographers the following week.

Throughout both weeks i was treated to a number of passes by various aircraft from the RAF, Royal Navy and USAF. Photographs captured from my trip will be uploaded during the coming weeks at UK Low Flying 2021.

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