Austria has handed back the 12 Northrop Grumman F-5E Tiger fighters it was leasing from Switzerland since July 2004 to bridge the gap between the retirement of its obsolete Saab Drakens and the new Eurofighter Typhoons that Austria has been receiving recently.
As of July 1, air policing and air defense operations over Austria are performed by the new Eurofighters.
At a ceremony earlier this week, Austrian defense minister Norbert darabos hailed the special defense relationship between Austria and Switzerland, mentioning the "seamless cooperation" during the operation to protect the European Soccer Championships held in the two Alpine countries last month.
The ceremony saw the flyout of the last four F-5Es from Graz-Thalerhof Air Base.
Photos: Austrian armed forces
Darabos handed over the log of an F-5 to his Swiss counterpart Samuel Schmid, and the four jets flew a farewell formation together with two Eurofighters (see picture).
In the four years that they have been used by Austria, the F-5Es have amassed over 5,000 flying hours, providing armed air defense patrols to protect numerous events, including two visits by U.S. President George W Bush (one in Vienna, one in neighboring Bratislava, Slovakia).
The 12 jets were maintained and operated by a group of 60 Austrian personnel.