Apr 21, 2015
Switzerland to relaunch F-5 replacement effort in 2017
The cracking in 16 of the country's 32 serviceable F-5Es (10 of which will be retired and 6 repaired and returned to service) coupled with the relatively small number of Boeing F/A-18 Hornets in service had left the air force in a 'critical' position. Once the retirements and repairs were complete, the country would be left with just 22 F-5E and 32 F/A-18C/D frontline fighters.
This state of affairs has been compounded by the Swiss population's decision in May 2014 to reject a deal to procure 22 Saab Gripen E jets to replace the F-5s and augment the F/A-18s. Under that proposal, the Swiss Air Force was to receive a number of Gripen C/D fighters in 2016 ahead of the start of Gripen E deliveries in 2018. The F-5s were to be phased out from 2016, with deliveries of the Gripen E running through to 2021.
According to the government, the new process should include two of the three shortlisted candidates from the previous effort; namely, the Gripen E and the Dassault Rafale (the Eurofighter Typhoon is no longer considered a 'favourite', the RTS report said). It added that 'a US aircraft', most likely the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, should also be included.
When the F-5 replacement programme was launched in 2007, Saab submitted its Gripen C/D, Boeing its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault its Rafale, and Eurofighter its Typhoon. Less than a year later in 2008, Boeing dropped out of the competition citing differences between the requirements and the Super Hornet's capabilities.
The competition stalled in 2010, but was resurrected in mid-2011 after intense lobbying by Swiss industry, with Saab then offering its Gripen NG instead. Later that year, the Gripen NG (later to become the Gripen E) was selected, only to have the deal scuppered in the referendum. This decision effectively sent the air force back to square one in its efforts to replace its ageing F-5s.