Soon 36 new Lockheed F35A Lightning II will fly over the swiss mountain.
No, nothing to do with thunderstorms and bad weather, nothing to do with weather forecasts, today the Swiss government announced the decision to invest in the purchase of the Lockheed F35A Lightning II as a new fighter for the defense of Swiss airspace .
After the referendum of 27th September 2020, in which the population accepted the expense for the modernization of the air defense system, the government task force finally chose the defense system that best suited the requests made to the various manufacturers.
For the choice of the new aircraft, in particular, the long-term costs, the collaboration with the manufacturer and the product support, the ecological effects and the lifespan of the aircraft under consideration were evaluated.
The choice was between European and American aircraft, in the list appeared: Eurofighter Typhoon (Airbus), F/A-18 Super Hornet (Boeing), F-35A Lightning II (Lockheed Martin) and Rafale (Dassault).
Swiss government in the press conference of 30th June 2021 at 16:00 therefore announced the choice to purchase 36 units of the Lockheed Martin F35A Lightning II because following the evaluation and comparison with the other valid candidates the F35A achieved the highest score corresponding to the requests of the Swiss Armed Forces.
In particular, according to operating and procurement costs calculated at 15.5 billion Swiss Francs (CHF) over 30 years, the Lockheed Martin model was found to be 2 billion CHF cheaper than the runner-up. A notable difference that led the choice towards the more technologically advanced model compared to the competitors.
“Operating costs per flight hour (for the F35A) are between 55,000 and 60,000 francs” says Darko Savic – Head of the New Fighter Planes section of armasuisse, answering a question from a journalist during the Q&A session of the Press conference. For the new aircraft, the experts have planned to use at least 5000 flight hours per year.
The technological advantage that Lightning brings with it has led to the calculation of an operational lifespan of at least 30 years (with the aforementioned costs) to ensure the safety of Swiss airspace, an advantage that places it at the forefront compared to its competitors and hardly ever surmountable for the next few years. With this choice, the experts pointed out to the Swiss population the desire to guarantee a defense while keeping military expenses not excessively high.
Very important for the decision of the Swiss Federal Council was the aspect of technological dependencies from manufacturer and country of production, dependencies that cannot be totally excluded, but due autonomy was guaranteed for all candidates.
However, the Federal Council has clarified that with the choice of the F35A, Switzerland independently determines which data to exchange with other air forces and that both the operation and maintenance of the aircraft will be ensured by Swiss Air Force and RUAG (the Swiss government company that maintains Swiss military aircraft), moreover as also admitted by Lockheed, Swiss industry will have the opportunity to participate in research and development, production and support opportunities that will extend its capabilities in the future.
Another nation on the European continent is thus added to the clientele of the manufacturer from Bethesda (Maryland – USA), now strong of 14 nations in the world that have bought the American 5th generation fighter.
As of June 30th, 2021, the F35 in all three of its versions had 655 aircraft operating in 21 air bases around the world, employing 1380 pilots and 10670 maintenance technicians (source: Lockheed Martin). Numbers that are constantly on the rise due to the continuous interest of the various air forces in fifth generation fighters.
In the press conference, the Swiss Federal Council also announced that in support of air defense, Raytheon’s Patriot system was chosen as long-range surface-to-air defense, with a total cost of approximately CHF 3.6 billion over 30 years.
According to the schedule established by the Federal Council, between 2025 and 2030 there will be the supply of the new fighter aircraft for the Swiss Air Forces (and the Patriot), which will sail the Swiss skies protecting the airspace and enhancing even more the capabilities of the already very skilled Swiss pilots. We will be able to admire it in particular air bases such as Meiringen or practice shooting sessions with the onboard gun during the Axalp Fliegerschiessen event.
From Bern: Daniele Maiolo.