“Population said Yes” so many Swiss newspapers have announced the victory of “Yes” in the Swiss Referendum on the purchase of new fighter jets.
From September 27th 2020, the Swiss Air Forces will be able to safely continue their selection and purchase procedures for new fighter aircraft that will have to replace the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and the now dated Northrop F5 Tiger II.
The Swiss Confederation has been pursuing the project to replace its fighters fleet for years, after the debacle over the purchase of the Saab Gripen with the population who said “No” to the purchase with the referendum in 2014, Switzerland was now in a tight spot with the current fleet. There are many technical and structural problems of an aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet, too exploited in the defense of the Swiss territory and with the Northrop F5 Tiger II now downgraded to a training aircraft for pilots or “Aggressor” for Hornets training, the decision to renew the air force defense system could no longer be postponed.
This last referendum held the “Armee” (Swiss Armed Forces) with bated breath until the last second, in fact the Yes parties won by only about 8000 votes and in the last minutes of the ballot (50.1% Yes – 49.9% NO).
A 50/50 fight over the decision to spend the money for the renewal of the fleet which in the case of the No victory would have had to fall back on the possibility of acquiring training aircraft with attack configuration such as the Leonardo/Aermacchi M-346FA, this was the only concession of the parties detracting from the current renewal project of the Swiss air defense.
The extension of the current fleet after 2030, the year after which according to the calculations of the experts of the Swiss Air Force the F/A-18s would end their operational period, and the purchase of cheaper and lower capacity aircraft than the requests of the current Defense would certainly have affected the future costs and operational capacity of the Armee.
Therefore the population has opted for a concrete and safe expense for a much more efficient aircraft with a very long life expectancy, in fact the Air2030 Project provides for the purchase of an aircraft that guarantees at least 30 years of service, which may also have the final assembly in Switzerland and which guarantees an industrial induced to the local economy (these are just some of the main characteristics that the choice and purchase plan envisages).
With the continuation of the investment plan envisaged by Air2030, by November the manufacturers will now have to propose the “Second Offer” to Swiss Government for new aircraft and for ground-to-air defense system so that the evaluation team can draw up the Report for 2021 and before the end of the same year decide on the model to be acquired.
The winner among the aircraft involved in the selection: Airbus Eurofighter “Typhoon” P2E (Germany), Boeing F/A-18 “SuperHornet” Block III (USA), Dassault Rafale F4 (France), Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II (USA) ), as well as between the ground systems: Eurosam FSAF SAMP/T (France) and Raytheon Patriot (USA), will arrive in Switzerland in 2025 and completely replace the old systems in 2030.
Remaining on the purchase of combat aircraft we must not forget that the purchase will concern the latest version developed and “ready to fly” for each type of model and not the versions not available to be tested by 2019, unfortunately this has excluded the Saab Gripen from the choice because it was not possible to test in flight the latest version of this interesting and efficient aircraft: the Saab Gripen E.
It will be interesting to find out what the choice of new Swiss fighter aircraft will be and even more enjoyable will be waiting to see it fly between the Swiss Alps or in the Axalp shooting exercise. It will be even more interesting to see if the choice will be thrown on an aircraft that will be assembled at home by the Swiss Nation and as happened in 1996 for the F/A-18C/D Hornet with particular specifications requested by the Armee.
Next year, therefore, we will find out what the choice of the team of experts of the Swiss Air Forces will be, we will find out which fighter aircraft will protect the Swiss skies 24 hours a day or during special events such as the WEF-World Economic Forum, which will be chosen to put even more in highlight the qualities of the good Swiss pilots, which will whiz around the Alpine peaks.
We will find out if Switzerland will choose the Eurofighter joining Germany, U.K. and Italy in Europe, or if it will join Greece and France with the Rafale, or will continue the collaboration with Boeing with the Super Hornet or finally if it will also be one of the European nations that will entrust its defense to the excellent capabilities of Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation fighter, the F35A.
The complexity of the current dangers is such that a specific type of intervention cannot be predicted as in the past, the choice of defense systems is difficult due to the multiple and unpredictable types of attacks that a nation can suffer. For this reason it is important that there are renewal and updating interventions implemented by those who with their experience can foresee the future dangers that will threaten our freedom.
From Zurich: Daniele Maiolo (BSA)
Current purchase costs of the 4 aircraft running for Air2030 of the Swiss Air Force:
- Lockheed Martin F35A $ 77.9 Million (Lot. 14)
- Eurofighter Typhoon € 90 Million ( Tranche 3A)
- Dassault Rafale F4 € 73 Million (FY2013)
- Boeing F/A-18 SuperHornet Block III $ 66.0 million (2020 flyaway cost)
Swiss Air Forces Links for Air2030 Project:
- Air 2030 – Schutz des Luftraumes (in German)
- Air2030 – Protection de l’espace aérien (in French)
- Air2030 – Protezione dello spazio aereo (in Italian)
Activity of Swiss Air Force:
Multinational Air Group (MAG) days – “MAGDAYs Exercise” 2020