Switzerland begins delivery of decommissioned F-5 Tigers to United States


The Swiss Federal Office for Armaments (armasuisse) has initiated the delivery process of 22 decommissioned F-5E/F Tiger II fighter jets to the United States.  

The US Marine Corps (USMC) collected the first aircraft on March 18, 2024, from Emmen Air Force Station, north of Lucerne, aboard a Lockheed Martin KC-130J transport aircraft. 

The sale, which was finalized in 2020, includes 16 single-seat F-5E variants and six twin-seat F-5F variants, along with ground equipment, spare parts, and logistical support for storage and preparation in Switzerland before transport to the US. The transaction’s total value is estimated at $32.4 million. 

This delivery marks another stage in the retirement process of Switzerland’s F-5 fleet, initially acquired in the 1970s and 1980s. 44 F-5s were previously sold to the US Navy in 2008. Initially deployed by the Swiss Air Force for air defense, these former Swiss jets now serve as adversary aircraft in the US Navy. 

While 25 F-5 Tigers remain in the Swiss inventory, only 18 are currently operational.  

“They relieve the burden on the F/A-18 Hornet fleet and are used for target display, for training purposes, as a tow aircraft and for test flights,” armasuisse explained in a statement. “Around half of the F-5 Tigers are used by the Patrouille Suisse aerobatic team for flight demonstrations.” 

The Patrouille Suisse will continue to fly the F-5 until 2027. 

A Lockheed Martin KC-130J of the United States Marine Corps in Emmen (Credit: Nicolas Monsch / armasuisse)

Transformation of the Swiss Air Force 

In July 2021, the Federal Council of Switzerland announced its decision to acquire Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters to replace the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornets and the few remaining Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II antiques that were still assigned to secondary tasks.  

The decision created an intense political debate in the country, with the ‘Stop F-35′ movement, launched by the Socialist Party, the Greens, as well as the lobby organization ‘Group for a Switzerland without an Army’ (GSsA), actively campaigning to trigger a “popular initiative” ‒ the Swiss referendum model ‒ to block the decision.  

The acquisition of Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters for $6.25 billion was finally signed in September 2022 with a delivery scheduled between 2027 and 2030. 

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