Airbus and Lockheed Martin [LMT] submitted their bids this week for Switzerland’s $6.5 billion New Fighter Aircraft (NFA) competition–part of the European nation’s $8 billion “Air 2030” program to modernize fighter aircraft and air defense systems.
Switzerland is planning to replace its legacy F/A-18 C/D Hornets and F-5E/F Tiger IIs with up to 40 new aircraft. Under consideration are the Germany-made Airbus Eurofighter, the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35A, the Boeing [BA] F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and France’s Dassault Rafale.
“The Eurofighter is the only platform jointly developed and operated by several European nations and would therefore be an ideal solution for Switzerland,” Michael Flügger, the German ambassador to Switzerland, said in a Nov. 18 Airbus-issued statement.
Airbus said that “with more than 660 orders, the Eurofighter is by far the most widely used aircraft for securing airspace over Europe.”
“It is operated jointly by the four partner nations Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain and is undergoing continuous development,” the company said. “Only a few days ago, Germany itself signed the contract for the procurement of 38 Eurofighters from the latest Tranche 4 and is offering Switzerland the opportunity to lay the foundations for even closer political, economic and security cooperation by procuring the same type of aircraft.”
Lockheed Martin, for its part, said that its F-35A offering for Swizerland offers the highest capability and the lowest cost. Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, said that the company is “offering the only 5th generation fighter at the cost of 4th generation aircraft while offering Switzerland an aircraft that will protect Swiss sovereignty for decades to come.”
On Sept. 30, the U.S. State Department approved billions of dollars in possible Foreign Military Sales (FMSs) to Switzerland for F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, F-35s, and Patriot defense systems being considered for Switzerland’s Air 2030 effort (Defense Daily, Sept. 30).
All potential vendors must deliver their final proposals by November. Thereafter, the Swiss government will evaluate bids through the first half of 2021 and plans to decide on specific aircraft and missile defense selections by June 2021.
Switzerland said that it is to determine the exact number of fighter aircraft required to cope with a situation of “increased tension” where the Swiss Air Force must be able to permanently conduct air patrols with at least four aircraft for at least four weeks “to preserve air sovereignty, prevent unauthorized use and violations of Swiss air space and thus contribute to keep Switzerland out of armed conflict.”
The government also intends for the Swiss Air Force to use the aircraft for air policing at all times and, in case of armed attack, defending the air space for a limited period of time and supporting ground forces.
On Sept. 27, Swiss voters approved the government plan to spend about $6.5 billion on the new fighter aircraft in a referendum required for the plan to move forward. The plan was approved by a thin 50.1 to 49.9 percent margin.
The Swiss Minister of Defense is to weigh utility and cost in the Air 2030 program decisions, and the Federal Council, the Swiss government’s seven-member executive council that serves as a collective head of state and government, is to make a final decision on NFA and the air defense system.