Lockheed Martin [LMT] has won the fighter competition to replace Switzerland’s aging F-5E/F Tiger IIs and F/A-18C/Ds with 36 of the company’s F-35As for nearly $5.5 billion.
Under consideration in the Swiss competition were the F-35A, the Airbus Eurofighter, the
Boeing [BA] F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and France’s Dassault Rafale. Airbus and Lockheed Martin submitted their bids last November for Switzerland’s up to $6.5 billion New Fighter Aircraft competition–part of the European nation’s $8 billion “Air 2030” program to modernize fighter aircraft and air defense systems (Defense Daily, Nov. 19, 2020).
For the air defense part of “Air 2030,” the Swiss Federal Council said on June 30 that it had selected Raytheon Technologies [RTX] to build five Patriot batteries. Raytheon’s Patriot system beat out Eurosam‘s ASTER 30 Surface-to-Air Missile Platform/Terrain (SAMP/T). The French and Italian armed forces have fielded SAMP/T. Eurosam is owned by MBDA Missile Systems–a joint venture among Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo–and Thales.
The Swiss Federal Council said that the F-35A beat the three other competitors in three categories–effectiveness afforded by higher situational awareness, information superiority, greater survivability, and lower training demands; product support, given the aircraft’s use throughout Europe; and cooperation, given the “extensive opportunities for operational collaboration and broad access to data and technical resources.”
“With 336 points, it [the F-35A] showed the highest overall benefit and was the clear winner with a lead of 95 points or more over the other candidates,” per the Swiss Federal Council.
Switzerland also said that the F-35A was nearly $2.2 billion cheaper than the second lowest cost bidder. Procurement costs for the 36 F-35As are nearly $5.5 billion, while Switzerland estimates the F-35A operating costs over 30 years will be $11.2 billion.
The F-35A was not the winner in one of the four main competition categories–direct offsets. Direct offsets in arms deals may come in the form of co-production, subcontracting, training, licensed production, technology transfer, investment, or credit assistance, while indirect offsets are unrelated to the arms purchased but may include other buys, investment, training, credit assistance, and technology transfer.
“In direct offset, the F-35A did not achieve the best result at the time the bid was made,” the Swiss Federal Council said. “The offset obligation of 60% of the order must be fulfilled in full no later than four years after receipt of the final delivery.”
Lockheed Martin has 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.”
Switzerland has said that 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 F-35A will meet Switzerland’s “airspace protection needs over the longer term in a prolonged situation of heightened tensions,” the Swiss Federal Council said on June 30. “The Air Force must be able to ensure that Swiss airspace cannot be used by foreign parties in a military conflict.”
The government has said it also intends for the Swiss air force to use the aircraft for air policing and supporting ground forces.
Switzerland is the 15th nation in the F-35 program of record, Lockheed Martin said, adding that more than 655 F-35s are fielded at 21 bases worldwide and that nine nations operate F-35s from their home soil.