Watch This Rafale Fighter Drop Like A Brick During Crazy Approach To A Mountain Airport

We here at The War Zone are always on the lookout for cool and otherwise intriguing military aviation videos. Today, a clip appeared online of a French Air Force Rafale making a spectacular landing last year at Mollis Airport in Switzerland.

The video in question, from ARithner Photography, shows the jet making an extremely rapid descent on its approach to landing at the mountain airbase. The pilot pulls up at tree-top level and then soars to a smooth landing amongst the clear jubilation of plane spotters and other onlookers on the ground. 

It’s a fantastic display of the pilot’s skill and the Rafale’s maneuverability. The scenic location doesn’t hurt, either.

The clip is from the Mollis Zigermeet 2019 airshow, which took place in August of last year. A pair of French Rafales took part in this event, performing aerobatic routines above the scenic airport, which is located in a valley at the northeast edge of the Swiss Alps. You can see more video their full routines below.

Mollis Airport was previously a Swiss Air Force base and a stereotypical one for a country well known for building hardened military facilities inside mountains. Mollis’ command center and aircraft hangars were built into a nearby mountainside, providing good protection against surprise attacks. Aircraft had to cross a nearby road to get from their shelter to the main runway. 

A satellite image of Mollis Airport., Google Earth
A close up of the north end of the runway at Mollis showing the old taxiway leading to the hardened “aircraft cavern” to the right. At the bottom right-hand corner you can see where it crosses the winding road that leads south from the town of Mollis., Google Earth
A Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger II crosses the road that lies between Mollis’ hardened “aircraft cavern” and base’s main runway in 1999., Kobel via Wikimedia

Though the Swiss Air Force ceased operating from Mollis years ago, Meiringen Air Base, which has a similar “aircraft cavern,” does remain in use. The service’s other remaining fighter jet bases, Payerne and Emmen Air Bases, are both situated in more open areas of the country. Meiringen is also situated near the Axalp-Ebenfluh, which is host to another annual air show in Switzerland, the Fliegerschiessen Axalp.

Last year’s Zigermeet notably came around two months after the Swiss ended in-country evaluations of five different fighter jets as part of the Air 2030 program. The Swiss Air Force is looking for a replacement for both its remaining Cold War-era F-5E/F Tiger II combat jets and its F/A-18C/D Hornets, the latter of which it acquired in the 1990s. 

The Rafale is one of the aircraft in the running for the Air 2030 tender. The competition also includes the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing’s F-18E/F Super Hornet, and the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. Saab has also submitted it Gripen E for consideration, but did not take part in the fly-off last year. In 2014, the Swiss government had announced it would buy Gripen Es as the replacement for its F-5s and F/A-18s, but that plan collapsed after a public referendum against the purchase.

The Swiss government is looking to make a final decision on the winner of the Air 2030 competition either later this year or early next year. Depending on the outcome, Rafales may become a more common sight in Switzerland’s skies, though they might not always be making such spectacular displays of their agility.

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Joseph Trevithick Avatar

Joseph Trevithick

Deputy Editor

Joseph has been a member of The War Zone team since early 2017. Prior to that, he was an Associate Editor at War Is Boring, and his byline has appeared in other publications, including Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defense Journal, Reuters, We Are the Mighty, and Task & Purpose.