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Update: Switzerland’s Air 2030 plan narrows down options

24 October 2018
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The Schweizer Luftwaffe plans to replace its F/A-18C/Ds (pictured during ‘Axalp 2017’) and F-5s under the NKF programme. Source: Schweizer Armee

The Schweizer Luftwaffe (Swiss Air Force) may be limited to purchasing a single-engine fighter as it is the only solution that fits budgetary limitations, it has unofficially emerged after the recent 8-10 October 'Axalp' annual exercise.

The force intends to simultaneously procure both a Neues Kampfflugzeug (new combat aircraft: NKF) and a Bodengestützte Luftverteidigungsystem (Bodluv), a medium-range air and missile defence (AMD) system.

The NKF will be a single aircraft type that will undertake missions previously carried out by two aircraft operated by the service: the F/A-18C/D Hornet and the soon-to-be-retired F-5. Five aircraft types - the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35A, and Saab Gripen E - are in contention.

The air-defence option will be selected from the same three systems that previously competed in Poland, Romania, and Sweden: MBDA's SAMP/T, Rafael's David's Sling, and Raytheon's Patriot PAC-3.

The combined procurements, designated Air 2030, will be Switzerland's second attempt at a new fighter procurement. In 2012 the Schweizer Luftwaffe selected the Gripen E, but only as the F-5 replacement. Two years later the order was cancelled when defence budget outlays were voted down in a national referendum.

Both Air 2030 procurements will still have to fall within budgetary guidelines established by another referendum to be held next year. To avoid the embarrassment of another cancellation, the Swiss armed forces will hold the referendum first, before final procurement decisions are made.

The consensus of companies bidding is that Schweizer Luftwaffe pilots "are so enamoured of their Hornets that they will be inclined to select another two-seat fighter", said one European company representative.

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