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Switzerland is still looking for a new fighter aircraft. In 2014, the acquisition of the Saab Gripen failed due to the no of the citizens' vote. Now the Swiss have voted for a new combat aircraft, but not for a specific type. It was about the Air2030 program. The Swiss government plans to provide around six billion francs for this. At least 30 new combat aircraft are to be procured for this. The program also includes the renewal of the ground-based air defense, which is estimated at two billion francs. This is the largest and most comprehensive procurement program for the Swiss armed forces to date.

Experts consider this investment to be urgently needed. If one does not go this way, the use of the existing Boeing F / A-18 fleet would have to be increased from 5,000 to 6,000 hours and thus extended. The F / A-18 fleet has been in use in Switzerland for over 20 years. The investments required to extend the service life are, it is said, disproportionate to the improvements made to the aircraft. But it would be the only alternative to a new acquisition to close the capability gap by 2030, according to the Swiss government.

Second offer is available

The Airbus offer for the Eurofighter is coordinated with the governments of the nations in which the Eurofighter is manufactured and the industrial partners Leonardo and BAE Systems.

The government in Bern has now received the new offers for the new combat aircraft and for the ground-based air defense systems of greater range. This will begin work on the evaluation reports for the government's armaments agency, armasuisse, which should be completed in the first quarter of 2021.

Four manufacturers have applied for the new fighter aircraft, Airbus from Germany with the Eurofighter, Dassault from France with the Rafale, and from the USA Boeing with the F / A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed-Martin with the F-35A. Saab had already withdrawn its participation with the Gripen E after flight tests in 2019. In the second offer, the manufacturers contacted by the government agencies were asked to submit an offer optimized for Switzerland.

Germany itself had just signed the contract for the procurement of 38 Eurofighters of the latest tranche 4 just a few days ago. The offer to Switzerland is based on procurement of the same type. Berlin has offered Switzerland to lay the foundation for even closer political, economic and security cooperation. The Federal Government is thus particularly supporting this offer.

The offers include the following elements:

  • Price for 36 and 40 aircraft including defined logistics and armament as a binding starting point for detailed negotiations with the selected candidate after the decision;
  • Offers for cooperation between the armed forces and the procurement authorities in Switzerland and those in the supplier country;
  • Desired or already initiated offset projects.

Ground-based air defense of greater range

On November 18, 2020, armasuisse also received the second offers made to the government by the manufacturers in question for the new systems of ground-based air defense over a longer range. The Eurosam consortium from France is applying with the Aster 30 SAMP / T system. From the USA Raytheon entered the race with Patriot. As with the new fighter aircraft, the manufacturers contacted were asked to submit the most advantageous offer for Switzerland.

The offers include the following elements:

  • Price for the systems of the ground-based air defense of greater range to cover at least 15,000 km2 including defined logistics and armament as a binding starting point for the detailed negotiations with the selected candidate after the decision;
  • Offers for cooperation between the armed forces and the procurement authorities in Switzerland and those in the supplier country;
  • Desired or already initiated offset projects.

Next steps in the Air2030 program

The overall benefit of each system is determined using the information from the second offer and the findings from the various testing activities. The results flow together with a comprehensive risk analysis in independent evaluation reports in which the respective overall benefits of the new combat aircraft or the new system of ground-based air defense of greater range are compared with the procurement and operating costs for 30 years. The evaluation reports should be completed in the first quarter of 2021. The decision as to which system was purchased should be made by the Federal Council for both projects in the 2nd quarter of 2021.

With more than 660 orders, the Eurofighter is by far the most frequently used aircraft for securing the airspace over Europe. It is operated jointly by the four partner nations Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain and is constantly being further developed.

The delivery of new combat aircraft and a system of ground-based air defense of greater range is expected to take place between 2025 and 2030.

André Forkert