The Swiss defense ministry has proposed the purchase of 36 Lockheed Martin-built F-35A fighters to replace its air force’s ageing F/A-18 Hornets, pending a parliament approval.
The Swiss Ministry of Defense, Civil Defense and Sports announced that the Swiss Federal Council (government) intends to propose to parliament to approve the purchase of 36 F-35A Lightning 2 fighters and five Patriot batteries.
Based on the results of the assessment, these two systems will provide the highest overall efficiency at the lowest total cost.
The F-35A was selected over three other options, the French Rafael, the German Eurofighter proposal and the US F/A-18 Super Hornet proposal from Boeing.
As noted, the Federal Council is confident that these systems are most suitable for protecting Switzerland from air threats in the future. This decision was made by the Federal Council at its meeting on June 30.
In addition to the choice of the F-35A, the Swiss defense ministry has also selected a successor for its Bodluv longer-range ground-based air defense (GBAD) systems. The selected system is Raytheon’s Patriot. Raytheon has already revealed its plans to work with Rheinmetall Air Defence and Radar Systems, and Mercury Systems to provide the Patriot as part of Switzerland’s initiative to modernize the protection of its airspace.
According to a Swiss government announcement, an evaluation determined that these two systems offered the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost.
The Air Force’s current equipment will reach the end of its service life in 2030. In the referendum on 27 September 2020, a planning decision was adopted which set a budget cap of CHF 6 billion for the procurement of new fighter aircraft. In addition, CHF 2 billion will go towards a longer-range GBAD system.
The Swiss Federal Council said it based its decision on a comprehensive technical evaluation of four new fighter aircraft candidates (Eurofighter by Airbus, Germany; F/A-18 Super Hornet by Boeing, USA; F-35A by Lockheed Martin, USA; Rafale by Dassault, France) and two candidates for a longer-range GBAD system (SAMP/T by Eurosam, France; Patriot by Raytheon, USA).
The service life of the systems in service with the Air Force will expire in 2030. To ensure continuous protection of Switzerland from air threats, the Federal Council intends to replace existing fighters, as well as purchase a new extended-range ground-based air defense system. The decision to purchase the new fighters, with a total value of 6 billion Swiss francs ($ 6.48 billion), was approved by the public in a nationwide referendum on September 27, 2020. In addition, 2 billion Swiss francs (2.16 billion dollars) are allocated for the purchase of air defense systems.
All candidates met the requirements. Of the fighters proposed for the tender, the F-35A became the best candidate. With 336 points, he showed the highest result and was named the winner, ahead of other candidates by 95 points or more. This aircraft scored the best on three of the four main criteria.
As noted, the fleet of 36 new fighters will meet the needs of Switzerland in the protection of airspace for a long period of time in an environment of increased tension.
The F-35A’s procurement and operating costs are estimated to be the lowest. At the time of filing in February 2021, procurement costs were CHF 5.068 billion, well below the allocated CHF 6 billion. Even adjusted for inflation, procurement costs will remain below budget boundaries. The total cost of the F-35A (purchase cost plus operating costs) over 30 years is about 15.5 billion Swiss francs. This is about CHF 2 billion lower than the runner-up.
When evaluating extended-range air defense systems, the Patriot air defense system surpassed SAMP / T in all four main criteria. The system provides protection of the country’s territory both independently and together with fighters. The altitude of the destruction of targets of the Patriot air defense missile system is more than 20 km at ranges of more than 250 km. At the same time, protection from air threats to an area of at least 15 thousand square km can be provided with five Patriot batteries.
In terms of cost, the Patriot is also the least expensive system. The purchase cost, including inflation and VAT, at the time of payment is CHF 1.97 billion. Combined with projected operating costs over 30 years, the total cost of the Patriot system is around CHF 3.6 billion, significantly less than the competitor. Offset obligations of 100% of the order value must be fulfilled in full no later than four years after delivery.
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