Time and again the Swiss Air Force has found itself at the mercy of the politicians. No other branch of the armed forces stirs up such strong feelings as the Air Force. The most recent example of this is the 1993 referendum aimed at preventing the procurement of 34 F/A-18 interceptor aircraft. As in 1912, however, the people decided in favour of their Air Force.
Today the Swiss Air Force's key mission covers all kinds of air policing. The downsized Air Force of today is the outcome of the amalgamation of the Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence, implemented in 1996 as part of the reorganisation of the armed forces. The most recent reorganisation in 2003 brought another reduction in force – with now only three jet and three helicopter bases left.
As air rescue and transport services are becoming ever more important, large helicopters are employed to increase operational efficiency. The effectiveness of this was impressively demonstrated in 1999 with a series of evacuations of stranded people in the Alps during the 'winter of the century', as well as humanitarian aid missions during the Kosovo conflict. The first extensive air rescue mission ever flown by the Air Force goes back to 1946, a spectacular glacier rescue with Fieseler Storch aircraft.