Switzerland picks the Lockheed Martin F-35A as its next fighter jet

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The Federal Council of Switzerland announced its decision regarding the next fighter jet to fly with the colors of the Swiss Air Force: out of four contenders, it chose the Lockheed Martin F-35.

To replace the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornets and the few remaining Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II antiques that are still assigned to secondary tasks, the fifth-generation fighter jet was competing against the Dassault Rafale, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Despite making an offer, the Saab Gripen E/F was excluded as it will not be operational before 2023, one of the requirements of the tender.

The choice of the American offer might come as a surprise, after several Swiss politicians who had initially campaigned against the procurement later voiced their opposition to the Lockheed Martin F-35. “Buying the American F-35s, which are the most expensive, is excluded,” said Roger Nordmann, the leader of the Socialist group in the Federal Assembly. 

The threat of another “popular initiative” (the Swiss referendum system) being launched would delay the acquisition of much-needed aircraft. As a reminder, in 2014, 53% of the Swiss electors rejected the funding to acquire 22 Saab Gripen E fighters, though they had been selected two years before by the Federal Council.

Yet the Swiss government chose to acquire 36 F-35A for a total of 5 billion Swiss francs ($5.4 billion) as it came superior in three out of the four criteria of the competition: efficiency, product support, and cooperation. Only in the area of direct offsets did the F-35A lag behind its competitors. “I am convinced the F-35 will give Switzerland the capacities to counter any air threats,” commented Viola Amherd, Head of the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport.

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