Switzerland completes test flights in fighter contest

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Switzerland has completed a 100-sortie series of test flights involving the three candidate airframes being considered to replace part of its Northrop F-5 fighter fleet.

The nation's air force and Armasuisse procurement agency on 2 December finished three weeks of testing at Emmen air base using two Eurofighters provided by EADS (one pictured below). The work followed earlier evaluations of the Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen at the same site.

 
© Armasuisse

The two-seat Eurofighters logged 31 sorties and 45 flight hours from 6 November. This compared with 30 flights and 35h with the Gripen (below) and 39 flights and 60h with the Rafale (bottom). Including night and supersonic sorties. Each of the evaluations was supported by around 50 flights using Swiss air force F-5E/Fs and Boeing F/A-18C/Ds, with these acting as target or formation aircraft.

 

 

Both images © Armasuisse

"The higher number of [Rafale] flights and flying hours compared with the Gripen and Eurofighter were used for extended tests with a new type of radar," says Armasuisse. This is believed to have been its Thales-developed RBE-2 active electronically scanned array.

The French team promoting the Rafale believes the new radar could be a key factor in current export campaigns, but Boeing earlier this year withdrew its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet from the Swiss contest, attributing its decision partly to Berne's mission requirements, which it said did not stipulate an AESA sensor.

The bidding companies will submit best and final offers for the requirement next April, with Armasuisse to publish a test and evaluation report in May. A platform selection is anticipated in mid-July, with a contract signature to follow in 2010.

EADS's July 2008 offer to Switzerland is known to include alternatives to supply either 22 or 33 Eurofighters.

Find out more about the Swiss air force by downloading Flight's World Air Forces directory