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Air Warfare

F-35 takes Swiss spoils to maintain remarkable European sales record

1st July 2021 - 22:09 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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Switzerland is set to become the fifteenth country to operate the F-35 (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

In what amounted to a fairly one-sided contest, the F-35A has emerged as the winner of Switzerland's Air2030 procurement, with Bern opting to buy 36 of the fifth-generation jets.

Switzerland has picked Lockheed Martin’s F-35A for its Air2030 competition, agreeing to procure 36 of the aircraft in the process.

The decision, announced by the Swiss Federal Council on June 30 was made mainly on the basis that the fighter jet and selection of Raytheon’s Patriot SAM system represented ‘the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost,’ and stands as a resounding endorsement of US defence manufacturing capabilities in Europe.

In the end, the F-35A was judged to be far and away the best aircraft on offer most notably because total procurement and operational costs amount to approximately CHF 15.5 billion over 30 years, a figure, the Swiss Federal Council noted was CHF two billion less than the second lowest bidder.

‘At the time the bids were made in February 2021, the procurement costs amounted to CHF 5.068 billion – well under the financial cap of CHF 6 billion set by voters,’ Switzerland’s Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport said in a statement. ‘Even when accounting for inflation up to the time of payment, procurement costs will remain below the credit limit.’

The F-35A was also said to be better than all other competitors in terms of capabilities, singled out by Switzerland for its ‘entirely new, extremely powerful and comprehensively networked systems for protecting and monitoring airspace’ alongside a stealth design ‘especially difficult’ for enemy weapon systems to detect.

The jet, which is now set to replace Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II and Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fleets, also ranked highest in terms of product support and cooperation with Switzerland additionally impressed by data autonomy opportunities on offer.

‘In the case of the F-35A, the system’s cyber management, the security of its computer architecture and its cyber protection measures combine to ensure an especially high level of cyber security,’ the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport added.

Upon final assessments, the F-35 finished 95 points ahead of its nearest competitor.

Switzerland is the eighth European country to buy the fifth-generation fighter, a record that strongly suggests Lockheed Martin’s market dominance will continue long-term.

‘We are honored to be selected by Switzerland and look forward to partnering with the Swiss government, public, air force and industry to deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft, said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s VP of the F-35 program in a statement.

There are more than 655 F-35 aircraft currently in service according to the company.

Across Europe, Lockheed also has interest in securing a sale with Finland, subject to an aircraft production contract award for the country’s €9.4 billion ($11.4 billion) HX procurement due to be announced at the end of 2021, and in which the Eurofighter Typhoon, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III, Gripen, and Rafale are also competing.

Next steps for Bern and the Air2030 procurement will see parliament meet to approve the Armament Procurement Program 2022, Pierre-Yves Breuleux, secretary of Swiss Defence Committees told Shephard

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