Fighter jets intercept Israeli airliner
Two Swiss F/A-18 fighter jets have intercepted an Israeli El Al airliner near Schaffhausen due to a bomb threat, authorities said.
The jets had to break the sound barrier while reacting quickly to catch the airliner on a flight that originated in the United States, according to Schaffhausen police and Skyguide, the Swiss-based air traffic controllers.
That caused two thunderous supersonic booms around 8:30 am in the northern Swiss canton of Schaffhausen, in German-speaking Switzerland.
The two Swiss fighter jets accompanied the airliner, which was bound from New York to Tel Aviv. El Al, Israel’s biggest airline, is known for its tight security because of the regular threat of terror attacks.
Such a “hot mission” by the Swiss Air Force is brought on when a foreign aircraft violates Swiss airspace or sends a distress signal.
It was not yet clear which had occurred, but the plane already had been accompanied in France’s airspace.
Only recently, the Swiss air force has been getting ready to launch an around-the-clock air policing operation, after being criticised as an office-hours only air force.
That criticism stemmed from its failure to intervene in a hijacking case involving an Ethiopian airliner two years ago.
Fighter jets couldn’t be sent to intercept the plane since the air force wasn’t set up to police the Swiss skies outside of office hours.
As of this year, however, the Swiss air force is extending its operations so that by 2020 two armed fighter jets will be ready to fly missions at any time.