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Swiss F/A-18 fighters complete phase 1 SLEP

The F/A-18C/D fighter aircraft of the Swiss Air Force completed the first phase of a service life extension programme in late 2021, Armasuisse announced on 14 February. (US Air Force)

The Swiss Air Force's Boeing F/A-18C/D fighter aircraft fleet has completed the first phase of the service life extension programme (SLEP) that will keep it in service through 2030.

On 14 February the Swiss Federal Office for Defence Procurement (Armasuisse) announced that by the end of 2021, the 30 F/A-18C/Ds in service with the Swiss Air Force had received upgraded communication, navigation, and identification systems that will enable the aircraft to meet the requirements for interoperability up to their decommissioning date.

The SLEP was first approved by the Swiss parliament in 2017 for a total of CHF450 million (USD490 million) to keep the fleet, which entered service in 1997, operational until 2030 when it will be fully replaced by 36 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

The first phase of the SLEP included the replacement of essential components of the flight simulator, which is now fully integrated into the pilot training activities, and the procurement of new night-vision goggles integrated into the multifunction helmet already in use for night flight training, Armasuisse said.

The second phase of the SLEP will include further software upgrades and a new encrypted radio, Armasuisse added.

The Swiss Air Force operates 25 F/A-18C and five F/A-18D aircraft out of an original fleet of 34 aircraft (26 single‐seat and eight twin‐seat variants) received in the late 1990s, according to Janes World Air Forces.

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