Swiss Air Force available only during office hours

SlateFebruary 20, 2014 

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 men — and many women — have military training and quite a few have held on to their assault rifles just in case.

But Fortress Switzerland’s reputation for impregnability took a blow this week 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.

Why? According to Swiss Air Force spokesman Laurent Savary, as reported by Agence France-Presse, it was after business hours: The Swiss airforce is only available during office hours. These are reported to be from 8 a.m. until noon, then 1:30 to 5 p.m.

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

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international news, social science and related topics.

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