Switzerland officially launched its procurement process for a new fighter plane to equip its air force before 2025. The first request for tender should be sent during summer 2018. The contract could be up to $6.8 billion.

The federal government is looking to replace its McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet (acquired in 1997) and Northrop F-5 Tiger (acquired in 1978!).

Five contenders are currently examined: the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, the Boeing Super Hornet, the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the Saab Gripen E.

“The next fighter plane will stay in service until the years 2050-2060” according to the report produced by the Federal council. Depending on which model is chosen, Switzerland could acquire from 20 to 70 planes.

The plane should be chosen by 2020 by the government. However, the new procurement is threatened by the Swiss political system: the Air2030 program could be subject to a direct referendum, as it is common in the neutral country.

In 2014, 53% of the Swiss electors rejected the funding to acquire 22 Saab Gripen Es. The planes were supposed to replace the F-5 Tigers and had been chosen two years before by the Federal council.

Several countries will be involved in the evaluation of the different planes. However, “the fighter planes should be piloted by Swiss pilots during the test flights”, has announced the Federal council.

Another $1.6 billion should be attributed for a long-range air defense system, which Switzerland currently lacks, to cover its 15,000 square kilometers of territory. The MBDA Afret (France), the Rafael David’s Sling (Israel) and the Raytheon Patriot (U.S.) are currently examined. The decision should also be taken by 2020.