The Swiss Air Force Will Only Repel Invasions During Office Hours

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Feb. 18 2014 2:14 PM

The Swiss Air Force Is Only Available During Office Hours

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A F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft of the Swiss Air Force takes off on Feb. 20, 2013, at Payerne airport ... presumably before 5.

Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

It may have been a few centuries since Switzerland fought a war, but it still enjoys a reputation as a place that would be pretty difficult to invade. Its “mountain redoubt” isn’t quite what it was in Cold War days, but the country still “maintains a system of about 26,000 bunkers and fortifications throughout the Swiss Alps meant to deter attacking armies.” Get past the Alps, and you have to deal with a population where all menand many womenhave military training and quite a few have held on to their assault rifles just in case.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

But Fortress Switzerland’s reputation for impregnability took a blow yesterday, when an Ethiopian Airlines flight was hijacked by its asylum-seeking co-pilot and landed in Geneva. While Italian and French fighter planes were scrambled to escort the hijacked airliner through their airspaces, Switzerland’s own F-18s remained on the ground throughout the incident.

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Why? According to Swiss Air Force spokesman Laurent Savary, as reported by Agence France-Presse, it was after business hours:

[T]he Swiss airforce is only available during office hours. These are reported to be from 8am until noon, then 1:30 to 5pm.
"Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend," he said, adding: "It's a question of budget and staffing."

So, if planning an aerial invasion of Switzerland, nights, weekends, and lunchtimes are probably your best bet. Take note, Liechtenstein.