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Ex Yorknite

Ex Yorknite is an annual training opportunity for the Swiss Air Force pilots to, firstly integrate with the Royal Air Force and their training methods but also provide opportunities to fly low-level and night flying operational training sorties.


“The "YORKNITE23" exercise offers the Swiss Air Force ideal training and environmental conditions. The training sectors are spacious and the short distance to the North Sea allows for realistic operations in all domains, which is not possible in Switzerland due to smaller training areas, limited flight operating times and density of civilian air traffic.”

Swiss Confederation


According to the same source this exercise and indeed further cooperation has been assured under an international agreement for a further 5 years as of 2023. For this year’s exercise there would be around 40 pilots and a further 90 aircrew in attendance for the 3 week long deployment.

Exercise Yorknite 2023 RAF Leeming

On arrival, passing through security we went round on a coach to the VAS buildings where we would get our safety briefing for the afternoon/evening. On conclusion, our first port of call was one of the HAS buildings with F18/A J-5010. I had in fact photographed this jet a couple of weeks earlier in Switzerland as part of Axalp 2023.

Exercise Yorknite 2023 Swiss Air Force F18

Axalp 2023 Swiss Air Force F18

So first order of business was a crew up and wind up of the jet to a readiness state. Originally there were going to be multiple sorties going out however the windspeed over the aerodrome exceeded the safety limit for a training mission so only ground movements had been permitted.

RAF Leeming Exercise Yorknite 2023 F18

So on that the aircraft was taxied out and that went off and looped round for us before returning back to the hard standing in front of the hanger.

Exercise Yorknite 2023 Swiss Air Force F18

Exercise Yorknite 2023 Swiss Air Force F18 Fighter Pilot

Now for a break where the group was provided an opportunity to get hold of some of the customary ‘Av Swag’. I will admit that I don’t really go in for all that but I do have a collection of patches of the squadrons that I have shot with over the years, that’s my thing.


Back out and this time we would be shooting J-5011 which, much to everyone’s delight, was the painted tiger jet from Fliegerstaffel 11 based at Meiringen Air Base in central Switzerland. Again we got a superb rush of jet noise and the smell of Av fuel filled the air as the pilot went through his start up procedures. Pulling the jet out of the HAS to the hard standing bringing the jet into the flood lit area provided us with an opportunity to shoot the jet in a more high contrast environment, lighting wise.

Exercise Yorknite 2023 Swiss Air Force F18

Exercise Yorknite 2023 Swiss Air Force F18

Exercise Yorknite 2023 Swiss Air Force F18

Exercise Yorknite 2023 Swiss Air Force F18

This was a short sharp hit sort of shoot. This is a practice I’m used to doing having worked for many years in press. I’m all about getting in, shooting and getting out with minimal disruption to the unit I’m shooting with. This was my first time shooting at RAF Leeming and the press team were very welcoming indeed and it would be an absolute pleasure to work with them again!

Sean Strange Exercise Yorknite RAF Leeming


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