Country Listing

Austria Table of Contents


Air Force

Austria's air force (Fliegerdivision) is headquartered at Tulln-Langenlebarn Air Base twenty-five kilometers northwest of Vienna. The air force has as its missions the defense of Austrian airspace, tactical support of Austrian ground forces, reconnaissance and military transport, and search-and-rescue support when requested by civil authorities.

Until 1985, when the first of twenty-four Saab J-350e Drakens were delivered, the country had remained essentially without the capacity to contest violations of its airspace. The Drakens, reconditioned after having served the Swedish air force since the early 1960s, are armed only with a cannon, in accordance with the restrictions on missiles in the State Treaty of 1955. However, following Austria's revised interpretation of its obligations under the treaty, a decision was made in 1993 to procure Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The first of these missiles will be purchased used from the Swedish air force. A higher performance model of the Sidewinder will be purchased directly from the United States; deliveries may begin in 1995. French Mistral surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) were purchased to add ground-based protection against air attack. The first of the French missiles arrived in Austria in 1993; final deliveries are to be concluded in 1996.

Phaseout of the Drakens is scheduled to begin about 1995, and studies were under way to select a replacement, probably one that can be configured for both air defense and ground support missions. Possible replacements for the Draken are the United States F-16 and F-18. In addition to the two squadrons of Drakens, the air force has thirty-one Saab 105Oe fighters available for reconnaissance and close air support of ground troops; however, eight Saabs, borrowed from the combat squadrons, are regularly employed as jet conversion trainers. Acquired in 1970-72 after service in the Swedish air force, the subsonic Saabs are of limited value in a combat role. The helicopter fleet includes Agusta-Bell (AB) 204s (mainly medical evacuation), AB206s (training and liaison), and AB-212s (used by air-mobile troops and for light transport). French Alouettes are available for search-and-rescue tasks, including high mountain operations. The Bell OH-58 Kiowa, a scout helicopter, is mounted with a rapid-firing machine gun, but the air force lacks a true attack helicopter. Most of the helicopters, except the AB-212s, are becoming obsolete (see table 16, Appendix).

The air transport fleet is seriously deficient, a fact underscored by its inability to support the armed forces in their UN peacekeeping and humanitarian activities. The air force has at its disposal two Short Skyvans and twelve Pilatus PC-6s that can handle only light cargoes. Among air force priorities-- unfulfilled because of budgetary constraints--is the procurement of three to six medium-transport aircraft.

The air force is organized into a division of three flying regiments and one radar (air defense) regiment. Air Regiment I at Tulln-Langenlebarn consists of the light transport squadron plus one helicopter wing of AB-206s and OH-58s. Air Regiment II at Graz-Thalerhof, Aigen in Ennstal, and Zeltweg consists of the air interceptor wing of Drakens and a wing of two Alouette helicopter squadrons. Air Regiment III at Linz-Hörsching consists of the fighter-bomber wing of Saab 105Oes and a helicopter wing of AB204s and AB-212s. An air defense battalion equipped with 20mm and 35mm antiaircraft guns and a variety of radar systems is attached to each air regiment.

The Central Flying School at Zeltweg is equipped with Saab 91D Safirs and Saab 105Oes, while transport pilots train on PC7s . Austrian pilots are sent to northern Sweden for training in operation of the Drakens.

Data as of December 1993