Now in its fifth year at the North Yorkshire RAF Leeming base, Exercise YORKNITE 23 is the name given to the Swiss Air Force’s annual low level and night flight training. Due to the high mountains and limited size of the country this type of training based on international standards is not possible in Switzerland. The Yorknite exercise is therefore crucial for the basic training of young pilots as well as for the consolidation of training for experienced pilots. The Exercise is made up of pilots from all three F-18 squadrons – 11 Sqn “Tigers”, 17 Sqn “Falcons”, 18 Sqn “Panthers” with 11 sqn sending their special Tiger Tail jet J-5011 for the first Detachment.
With the exercise split into two phase of approx 20 pilots for each one, detachment 1 runs for the first two weeks and involves the junior pilots completing their night flying readiness so they are combat ready. After a crew change over, detachment 2 sees the experienced pilots undertake advanced night flying training for the remainder of the exercise. England provides ideal conditions for low level flying through the Lake District (LFA17) as well as over the North Sea.
November 20th saw 10 aircraft take the 75 minute flight from Payerne to RAF Leeming with 8 arriving early on the Monday morning of day 1 alongside an Embraer E190-E2 support aircraft. Initially J-5232 / J-5005 had to turn back to Payerne after a technical issue with the twin seater but this was resolved in time for the two final aircraft to arrive early afternoon.
Detachment 1 Aircraft
SUI401A/B: J-5232 / J-5005 (Both initially back to PAY due to technical of 5232)
SUI403 A/B: J-5234/ J-5021
SUI405 A/B: J-5014/ J-5003
SUI407 A/B: J-5011/ J-5238
SUI409 A/B: J-5002/ J-5010
Support A/C: SUI591 Helvetic HB-AZD out of Payerne
The aircraft are housed in the Northern HAS complex and usually aim to fly three sorties a day of 6 aircraft, launching around 14:30, 17:30 and 20:30 and returning 60-90 minutes later depending on the aims of the sortie. The main challenges at this time of year in Northern England are of course the weather with several sorties lost due to strong cross winds, rough seas and fog being the main issues.