Switzerland special: Bidders line up in fighter competition

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Switzerland early this year launched the first stage of a contest to replace its Northrop F-5 fighters, just weeks after outlining a proposed new package of enhancements to its Boeing F/A-18C/Ds.

Initial offers based on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen will be delivered in July, with flight evaluations later this year. Best and final offers should be submitted in early 2009, with a contract for approximately 20-30 new aircraft expected in 2010 and the selected type to enter use around 2012.

Boeing hopes that the Swiss selectors will opt for an all-Hornet fleet, with its E/F model aircraft offering short-field performance and low-speed handling characteristics.

France continues to seek its first export customer for the Rafale, while the four Euro­fighter partner nations will attempt to build on their sale of 15 Typhoons to Alpine neighbour Austria. Buoyed by its recent sale of six Gripen C/Ds to replace F-5s operated by Thailand, Saab hopes to follow up on earlier deals to supply the lightweight type to the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Already receiving new air-to-air missiles, helmet-mounted cueing systems and Link 16 datalinks under the Upgrade 21 project, the Swiss air force's 33 F/A-18C/Ds will also receive targeting pods, radar warning receivers, enhanced cockpit displays and additional communications equipment under a follow-on deal worth a potential $535 million.