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Schweizer Luftwaffe - NKF - Neuen Kampfflugzeuges

In May 2014 voters rejected the defence ministry’s $3.5 billion order for 22 new Gripen fighter jets from Swedish defence company Saab AB. The purchase was rejected on the grounds that buying and maintaining the 22 new Gripen planes would have added up to CHF10 billion, money that could be better spent on social security and education. But the fleet of F-5 Tiger fighters currently in operation are becoming a problem.

The Swiss Air Force would scrap ten of its F-5 Tiger fighter planes after cracks were discovered in the bodies of the aircraft, the federal defence department said 15 April 2015. Cracks were also discovered in another six F-5 planes,which will be repaired between now and the first quarter of 2016, the department said. A fissure in the supporting structure of one of the air force’s F-5E Tiger planes was first noticed in 2014. A larger crack was noted in the airframe of a second plane in January 2015 leading to a detailed examination of all the 36 F-5 Tiger aircraft that were flying regularly. This led to the detection of “serious” fissures in a total of 16 planes.

Today's ground-based air defense consists of the light air defense system "Stinger", the mobile "Rapier" air defense weapon system and the medium-sized anti-aircraft gun system "35-mm M Flab". The acquisition of a new system of ground - based air defense is necessary for two reasons: Firstly, the effect of modern systems due to their very short ranges (height and distance), insufficient effect against current and future threat systems (for example cruise missiles as well as long-range precision munitions). It is missing integration into an air defense compound and a partial network (M Flab Sensorverbund). Secondly, today's systems reach the end of their useful life in the 2020s.

On 24 February 2016, the chief DDPs informed the Federal Council of the planned preparatory work for the evaluation of a new fighter aircraft. In view of the rejection of the acquisition of 22 combat aircraft of the type Gripen E in May 2014, the more intensive use of the F/A-18 fleet and the useful life of the F/A-18C/D and the F-5 Tiger Fleet were the focus of an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of the need for new fighter planes needed. Unlike the non-conditioned Gripen procurement, in the 2020s, it will no longer be a question of how many fighter planes are neede or what type of fighter aircraft will be owned by Switzerland in the future, but the fundamental question of whether Switzerland would still deploy fighter planes and means of ground-based air defence, or not.

On March 22, 2016, VBS CEO Guy Parmelin decided to suspend the ground-based air defense project 2020 - Bodengestützte Luftverteidigung 2020 (BODLUV 2020). At the end of 2014 the pre-evaluation for the project was completed. It included a short-range subsystem and a mid-range subsystem. From a list of manufacturers, a reduced list of candidates for a system for the medium range could be adopted after evaluating the technical specifications, the concepts and the guided discussions. At the end of August 2015, the company Thales Suisse SA was elected as a general contractor for procurement preparation. In January 2016 the members of the project supervisor spoke for a twins variant, a combination of two systems. Procurement was planned with the 2017 armament program.

For the entire Federal Council, the decision of the Chief Executive of VBS was comprehensible. The definitive costs for the entire project BODLUV 2020, including the short range, could not be reliably estimated. The definitive costs for the entire project BODLUV 2020, including the short range, could not be reliably estimated. In the Masterplan 2013, 500 million Swiss francs were provided for the protection of six systems, ie medium and short range. In the summer of 2015, manufacturers' offers were estimated to cost roughly 700 million francs for two mid-range subsystems. For an additional subsystem, additional costs of approximately 100 million Swiss francs had to be expected. At 19. January 2016 the members of the project supervisor spoke for a twins variant, a combination of two systems. In the outlook for upcoming procurement in the 2016 Army Embassy of 24 February 2016, the costs for BODLUV 2020 alone were estimated to reach 1.1 billion Swiss francs.

There was a lack of an adequate overall overview of air defense based on the concept of long-term security of the airspace adopted by the Federal Council on 27 August 2014. Following the suspension of the BODLUV 2020 project in March 2016, the relevant evaluation is to be conceptually re-established and resumed as soon as possible on the basis of the benchmarks described in the report. The aim was to be able to apply for the necessary credit for the procurement at the latest with an army message at the beginning of the 2020s.

In the 2020s, the air defense equipment of the Swiss army (combat aircraft, air force defense) comes to an end at the end of its useful life. In the spring of 2016, the head of the DDPS, in order to tackle the various upcoming renewals in a holistic manner, commissioned an internal expert group from the VBS to elaborate the necessary foundations. The expert group concluded 30 May 2017 that the renewal of the existing air defense equipment is urgently needed. To this end, the evaluation of a new combat aircraft is to be launched, with the aim of making the type selection in 2020 and applying for the commitment credit with the Army Message 2022.

Options include 30, 40 or 55 and more aircraft, as well as an option to keep the existing F/A-18 fleet (30 aircraft) provisionally in service in the 2030s, as well as the procurement of 20 new combat aircraft would. In all four options, a system of ground-based air defense of greater range is provided, which could be covered by an area of the size of the central or the whole of Switzerland, depending on the number of combat aircraft. The most expensive recommendation found in the report recommended a fleet of between 55-70 aircraft and ground-based air defense weapons at a cost ranging between $15.3-$18.4 billion, while cheaper options call for a procurement only 20 jets and accompanying ground-based air defense systems for $5 billion. It suggested the government decide by 2020 what kind of jets to buy.

On 27 September 2020 a referendum vote decided on whether to proceed with the procurement of a new aircraft to replace the Swiss Air Force’s ageing Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II and Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fleets. In the end, 50.1% of the roughly three million voters who cast ballots approved the CHF6 billion ($6.49 billion) funding packet after a surprising afternoon that left pollsters unable to call the result until the last minute.

The polls had indicated a relatively clear success with 56-58% support. Opposition figures were both enthused and disappointed by the nearness of the loss on Sunday, which Green Party president Regula Rytz said was a “sensational” victory in itself. Roger Nordmann, vice-president of the leftwing Social Democrats, said the tiny margin of victory showed that the army suffers from a “credibility problem”. Lukas Golder of the GfS Bern research institute said on Sunday that the high turnout of urban voters, who are generally more critical of the army, may have driven the close result. The cost of the plan and the current “pandemic effect” were also decisive, he said.

The country’s 5.4 million voters, including registered expatriate Swiss citizens had the opportunity to have final say on a multi-billion financial package to purchase new fighter jets for the Swiss air force. A majority of Swiss voters approved funding for a $6.46 billion fighter jet acquisition. Switzerland will consider the Lockheed Martin F35, Boeing F/A-18, Dassault Rafale and Airbus Eurofighter. The referendum, announced by the government on 26 June, did not decide the type of aircraft. Switzerland had planned to select a new fighter type in 2020, though this will now likely take place in 2021. Parliamentary approval and the award of funding is due in 2022, with deliveries to follow from 2025.

The pacifist Switzerland without an Army group collected enough signatures to force a referendum vote against the credit package. The campaigners handed in about 66,000 signatures in June 2020, following a decision by parliament in December 2019. As part of the Swiss system of direct democracy, a parliamentary decision can be challenged to a nationwide vote by collecting at least 50,000 signatures within 100 days.

Parliament gave its approval for the government-backed plans to boost and modernise Switzerland’s air defence capabilities. It was the third nationwide vote in almost 30 years about the acquisition of new military aircraft for the Swiss air force. The latest attempt to modernise Switzerland’s air defence, including its fleet of F-5 Tiger aircraft and the F/A-18 jets, was initiated by the government four years ago. A majority of parliament approved the CHF6 billion credit to purchase up to 40 fighter jets by 2030, with the type of aircraft to be decided by the government at a later stage. Bids by four companies from the United States, France and Germany have been shortlisted. As part of the package, the Swiss export industry is to benefit from an offset agreement – a compensatory system that means foreign companies involved in the armament deal place orders with Swiss firms worth 60% of the contract value.

Opponents categorically rejected the purchase of new aircraft, saying it is unnecessary and a waste of resources. They argued it makes more sense to use the funds for disaster relief, health, climate projects, public transport, old age pensions or education. They argue that Switzerland can police its airspace with cheaper jets which would also cause less damage to the environment. Campaigners also warned that the government is downplaying the real costs for the new aircraft. When maintenance and other costs are accounted for, the bill will amount to CHF24 billion rather than CHF6, opponents said.

However, supporters of the project argue that neutral Switzerland needs to modernize its air force fleet to keep up a credible self-defence system and to remain independent from other countries. The current fleet – with F-5 Tigers and F/A-18 Hornets as its backbone - would no longer be credible, and increasing the number of helicopters or drones is not a valid option, they said.

The opposition camp included the two main left-wing parties (Social Democrats and Greens), the environmental Greenpeace organisation as well as pacifist groups. They faced a broad alliance of all other major parties from the centre to the right of the political spectrum, the business community and various militia army groups. The government and parliament were also in favor of the acquisition.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:03:46 ZULU