COLOGNE, Germany and WASHINGTON – Four aircraft manufacturers have submitted final bids for Switzerland’s $ 6.5 billion aircraft program. Airbus and Lockheed Martin are promoting different approaches to assembling their aircraft on site.
November 18th was the deadline for the quartet of hopeful vendors, including Boeing and Dassault, to deliver their vision – and price – for one of the largest procurement programs in Europe.
Switzerland is looking for 36 to 40 new aircraft to monitor the country’s airspace. The level of involvement of local industry is becoming an important factor for the Swiss who are known to be independent.
Airbus received support from four Eurofighter operators – Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom – who sent their ambassadors to Switzerland for a press conference on November 19 to discuss the prospect of a greater industrial and political partnership, the Eurofighter Selection would follow.
The Swiss are expected to make a decision in early summer 2021 after a referendum was held in September this year that just gave the budget the go-ahead.
The Airbus offer includes the final assembly of all aircraft via a partner company in Switzerland, the details of which the company intends to announce in December.
Michael Flügger, Germany’s ambassador to Switzerland, pointed out the possibility of a Eurofighter-based cooperation between airspace and patrol along the Italy-Switzerland-Germany axis. In addition, joining the aircraft user club would mean that Switzerland would be able to “export” training aircraft noise to remote areas in the other partner countries.
Franz Posch, head of the Airbus campaign in Switzerland, told reporters that the company’s plan to assemble all 40 fictitious aircraft on site would “more than meet” the offset requirements set by the Swiss government.
Lockheed Martin with its F-35 also has high hopes for the Swiss competition and hopes to expand the aircraft’s user base in Europe. The company’s offering includes a base program of 36 jets with options for an additional four aircraft, said Mike Kelley, who leads the company’s F-35 efforts in Switzerland, during a roundtable with reporters on Nov. 19.
While Switzerland could buy parts through the spare parts pool shared by all F-35 operators, the offering also includes a six-month spare parts package – a separate pot of parts that would be managed by the Swiss government, which was required to meet Swiss autonomy requirements.
To meet the requirements for industrial involvement, Switzerland would have the ability to produce around 400 canopies and sheeting for F-35 aircraft domestically, and Lockheed would become a European hub for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of F-35 canopies and Set up slides in Switzerland. In addition, the country will take on certain projects to preserve the engines and airframes of the F-35, aimed at preserving the operational autonomy of the Swiss Air Force, Kelley said.
Lockheed is also planning a partnership with Swiss industry to create a cyber competence center that will prototype a unique data network for Switzerland and build a test bench that Swiss companies can use to test cyber capabilities in a secure environment.
In addition to these efforts, Lockheed offers Switzerland one final opportunity for industrial participation. For an additional fee, Switzerland can carry out the final assembly of four F-35 aircraft in existing RUAG plants in Emmen, so that the Swiss technicians currently working on the country’s aging Hornet fleet can gain a deeper knowledge of aircraft design .
This option would add “a significant cost” to the overall program, Kelley said, but could provide overall savings over the life cycle of the program.
Boeing has now positioned its F-18 Super Hornet fleet as a logical extension of Switzerland’s existing F-18 infrastructure. “As an F / A-18 operator, Switzerland has the ability to reuse up to 60 percent of its existing physical and intellectual infrastructure, making the transition to a Super Hornet easier and cheaper for the life of the aircraft,” the company said in a statement.
The aircraft offer would “easily fit into Switzerland’s current F-18 operating budget”.
The cost note comes after Swiss officials stressed that the fighter jet portion of the Air 2030 air defense modernization program includes a cost cap of 6 billion Swiss francs ($ 6.6 billion) in view of possible price cuts along the way.
“Boeing is currently working with more than 100 current and new partners across Switzerland to identify the right opportunities for its industry plan for new combat aircraft,” the company said.
With its Rafale range, France’s Dassault is the only provider that holds its cards close to its chest. Citing the obligation of confidentiality, a spokeswoman told Defense News that the company had no plans to characterize its offer or the “nature of the relationship” between the Swiss and French governments for this purpose.