Media reports emerged stating that the Federal Council of Switzerland has already signed the final contracts for the acquisition of 36 Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jets and five Raytheon Patriot missile defense systems.
But the reality is quite different.
On November 26, 2021, the Council did publish an update on the Air2030 program. It reported that Switzerland’s procurement office, armasuisse, adjusted procurement contracts in line with the United States government.
When it announced its decision in June 2021, the Swiss government said the 36 F-35A would cost a total of 5.068 billion Swiss francs (US$5.4 billion). Factoring in inflation forecasts until 2031, the price of the aircraft was adjusted to 6.3 billion Swiss francs (US$6.8 billion).
According to the deputy secretary-general of the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Marc Siegenthaler, the Lockheed Martin fighter remains the cheapest offer, even after inflation.
“It costs 2.3 billion less than the second cheapest candidate,” said Siegenthaler.
As a reminder, the F-35 was competing against the Dassault Rafale, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Inflation should not affect the price of the five Patriot systems as much, going from 1.970 to 1.987 billion Swiss francs (around US$2.1 billion).
While the contracts have been finalized, they remain unsigned by the Swiss authorities. “For now, the Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) are unilateral, meaning that they have only been signed by the United States,” the Federal Council reminded. “These contracts will come into force as soon as Switzerland has signed them in turn.”
Before the contracts can be signed, however, the choice of the F-35 will be reviewed by the Control Committee of the National Council in order to examine “the legality and the advisability of certain aspects of the evaluation procedure followed for the choice of the new combat aircraft”.
Additionally, a “popular initiative” ‒ the Swiss referendum model ‒ was launched to challenge the choice. If the opponents of the F-35 manage to collect 100,000 signatures, the choice will be submitted to the approval of the Swiss voters. In 2014, a similar popular initiative blocked the budget for the acquisition of 22 Saab Gripen E fighters.