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Swiss air force to work weekends from January

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Swiss air force to work weekends from January
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
16:13 CET+01:00
Switzerland said on Friday that its air defence system will no longer take weekends off effective January 1st, but that round-the-clock airspace surveillance is about five years away.

The wealthy alpine nation's aerial defence staff currently work five days a week and are on call during business hours -- from 8am (0700 GMT) to 6pm.
   
Air force colonel Benoit Studemann said that as of 2017 the force will be on guard through the weekend but that expanded daily hours were not expected to be implemented until 2021.
    
The Swiss air force's modest work schedule sparked controversy two years ago when the co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane hijacked his aircraft and forced it to land in Geneva so he could seek asylum.
   
No Swiss fighter jets were scrambled to escort the plane as the hijacking happened in the early morning hours, before the air defence team had opened up for the day.
   
Italian and French jets took charge of the February 2014 operation.

Switzerland has bilateral air defence agreements with both neighbouring countries.

Speaking to AFP at the time, Swiss Air Force spokesman Laurent Savary blamed lack of budget and staffing.

“Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend,” he said.

In July this year the federal department of defence said it would spend 1.3 million francs on buying a road that passes through the Swiss air force base in Payerne as part of a plan to police Swiss air space 24/7.

Buying it will allow the government to permanently close the road to the public and therefore ensure 24/7 security around the Payerne base with a view to extending its working hours.

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