Swiss MoD Looks to Revive Fighter Deal

PARIS --- The Swiss Ministry of Defense will this week take another step towards the replacement of its fighter aircraft fleet, which was suspended since 2014, when the Swiss people voted against buying 22 Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighters for the partial replacement of Northrop F-5Es in 2014.

The current Minister of Defense, Guy Parmelin, set up an expert group in February 2016 to study how Switzerland will ensure the defense of its airspace in future years. In parallel, the UDC party in the canton of Vaud set up a support group two months later which included representatives of industry, the military and the foreign ministry as well as a representative of each major political party.

These two groups – expert and support – will announce the results of their endeavors tomorrow in Bern, the Lausanne daily Le Temps reported May 26. Their brief was to study all possible future threats to Swiss airspace, and how to protect it, so it is expected that their reports will cover the modernization of air defenses as well as the fighter replacement.

Four scenarios, four price tags

The daily La Liberté reported May 26 that the expert group has identified four scenarios for the future fighter procurement. The goal is to replace the entire fleet of 54 F-5E Tigers as well as the 30 Boeing F/A-18 Hornets, the mainstay of Swiss air defense, whose service life is being extended until 2030 at a cost of 450 million Swiss francs.

The most ambitious option calls for the procurement of 55 to 70 modern fighters and of an integrated air-defense system covering all of Swiss territory (45,000 sq km), whose cost is estimated at 15 billion to 18 billion Swiss francs. This however seems very insufficient, given the cost of current combat aircraft, and a more likely cost would be the same figures, but in euros.

The two middle scenarios call for procurement of 30 fighters and of a complete air-defense system, or of 40 fighters and an air-defense system covering only one-third of national territory. Both are costed at 8-9 billion francs.

Finally, the low-cost scenario calls for buying just 20 fighters and an air-defense system also covering one-third of the country, at an estimated cost of 5 billion francs.

These figures should be compared to the defense budget, which averages 5 billion francs annually, of which 1 to 2 billion francs is earmarked for procurement.

Funding remains a major question mark

Given these costs, and the fact that in 2014 Swiss voters refused to approve spending 3.1 billion francs to buy 22 new fighters, politicians are understandably reticent to the idea of asking them to now approve a bill of 8 to 9 billion francs.

The reports submitted tomorrow will be passed on to the Federal Council, Switzerland’s government cabinet, which will choose one of the options – or none.

It will also decide how to finance the new acquisitions, an issue that was widely debated during the Gripen negotiations. One option is to pay for them in annual instalments out of the defense budget, which will in this case have to be substantially increased. This option offers the advantage of not requiring a referendum.

A second option is to set up a special fund, as was the case for the Gripen project, but this would require a referendum, which could take place in 2019 but which the government might be unwilling to risk a second time.

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The army’s attempts to acquire new fighter jets made the news as it had failed in a previous attempt that voters rejected

Guarding Swiss skies

The German language papers NZZ am Sonntag and Ostschweiz am Sonntag reported on Defence Minister Guy Parmelin’s attempts to revisit the sourcing of combat aircraft. A steering group recommends that the purchase of new fighter jets should come from the army’s purse, which should then be increased accordingly, reports the NZZ am Sonntag.

Such a model would exclude the risk of a referendum which went badly in 2014, when 53.4% of Swiss voters said no to the acquisition of 22 Swedish Gripen combat planes.

A separate group of experts will present its report on the security of Swiss airspace on Tuesday. Four options will be presented with price tags range between CHF5 billion and CHF18 billion francs. The most expensive variant involves the purchase of up to 70 versatile combat aircraft coupled with a ground-to-air defense system, say the Zentralschweiz am Sonntag and Ostschweiz am Sonntag. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Swissinfo website.

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Swiss MoD Looks to Revive Fighter Deal Swiss MoD Looks to Revive Fighter Deal Reviewed by Defense Alert on 05:07:00 Rating: 5

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