Swiss Air Force to participate in multinational helicopter exercise in Portugal

Press releases, 06.06.2023

From 7 to 21 June, members of the Swiss Air Force will train with three Super Puma and Cougar helicopters in Beja, Portugal. The purpose of the multinational Hotblade Helicopter Exercise is to compare and develop tactical capabilities with other countries and improve interoperability. Switzerland is participating in the exercise for the first time.

During the exercise in Portugal, the Swiss helicopter pilots will have the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and increase their proficiency in international air defence. They will also practice tactical air transport in the air and in cooperation with ground forces under difficult conditions such as hot temperatures, a dusty environment and mountainous topography. In addition, the Swiss Air Force will practice a humanitarian aid mission of the same magnitude as one the Swiss Armed Forces would carry out in Switzerland or abroad in the event, for example, of a natural disaster.

First-time participation

A total of 32 members of the Swiss Armed Forces will be travelling to Portugal for the exercise – 10 pilots, 3 loadmasters, 2 intelligence officers, 5 mechanics, 7 military police personnel and 5 support staff from the Armed Forces Staff. The event is being organised by the Portuguese Air Force, which is conducting the exercise as a member and on behalf of the European Defence Agency’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (EDA-HEP).

Switzerland is participating for the first time in the exercise, which has been carried out in Europe since 2009. The last exercise took place in summer 2022 in Hungary under the name of Fireblade. Six nations with around 20 helicopters and several hundred personnel are taking part this year. The objective is to train joint force operating scenarios in air transport, share experiences among the participants and compare capabilities. Switzerland’s participation is based on its 2021-2023 HEP membership, which has been approved by the Federal Council.

Limited training possibilities in Switzerland

The Swiss Air Force is unable to fully train in Switzerland to international standards. The reasons for this include the scarcity and size of suitable training areas, altitude and speed restrictions, limited flight operating times, limits on the number of aircraft movements at airfields, dense civilian air traffic over Switzerland, high population density and the subsequent consideration for noise pollution.

Address for enquiries:

Stefan Hofer
Armed Forces Spokesperson
+41 58 463 37 41


Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports DDPS