Switzerland has started off the competition to replace its ageing fleet of fighter jets, by inviting five European and US companies to submit their bids.

The Swiss defence ministry sent out its first request for proposal, a statement said on Friday. Under consideration are: Boeing's F/A-18 Super HORNET, Dassault's RAFALE, Eurofighter TYPHOON, Lockheed Martin's F-35A and Saab's GRIPEN E.

Under its Air2030 programme, Switzerland is aiming to procure new combat aircraft and ground-based defences in a programme valued at CHF8 billion (U$8.1 billion). It is the biggest arms procurement programme in modern Swiss history.

The new fleet would replace the current Northrop F-5 TIGERs and F-18s which are scheduled to be retired in the 2020s. Armasuisse, the Federal Office for Defence Procurement, said it was asking the firms to submit pricing for 30 or 40 planes, including logistics and guided missiles, as well as an assessment of the number of aircraft necessary to fulfil the Swiss Air Force's needs.

The requirement is furthermore seeking a ground-based system with a horizontal range of at least 50km (31mi) and altitude engagement capability of at least 12,000m (39,370ft), with the system’s radars contributing to the overall Swiss recognised air picture. Systems to be invited to bid are the Eurosam's SAMP/T, Rafael's DAVID’s SLING and Raytheon's PATRIOT system. Notably, Germany’s future TLVS air and missile defence system, a development based on the trinational Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), is missing from the lineup due to the fact that the systems has not been procured yet.

The manufacturers have until January 2019 to submit an offer, after which the planes will undergo tests and a second tender round will be opened, with the plan to finish the assessment by the end of 2020.

In March, the government said that Swiss voters would have a say on whether to buy new fighter jets, but not on the type of jet. It added that the two previous projects to buy new jets – F-18s in 1993 and GRIPEN fighters in 2014 – had also been subject to a nationwide vote. The 22-plane GRIPEN contract was rejected by 53.4% of voters.

Offsets for both requirements are at least 100%, divided among direct offsets associated with the purchase (20%), indirect offsets for Switzerland’s defense/security industry (40%), and the remaining 40% for other industries. Moreover, the offsets must be distributed across Swiss regions along the lines of 65% for German-speaking regions, 30% for French speakers and 5% for the Italian area.


Swiss call for new fighter jets & ground-based defence: Air2030. (Photo: Armasuisse)

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