Switzerland to slip fighter selection by six months

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Swiss defence minister Ueli Maurer has announced a six-month delay to the nation's selection process for a Northrop F-5 fighter replacement, pushing a decision back to at least January 2010.

The Swiss air force late last year completed extensive evaluations of three candidate airframes: the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen. It is notionally seeking up to 33 new aircraft to replace its F-5s (single-seat examples below) under a requirement pegged at $1.9 billion.

 
© Swiss air force

Maurer, who assumed his post in January, has requested extra time for the completion of a review of Swiss security policy that had originally been scheduled for completion in mid-2009. "A report will be on the table in December," a defence ministry source says, adding: "It would be stupid to make a fighter selection any sooner."

Local reports that claim the decision has been delayed because of a diplomatic spat with Germany are "media fantasy", the source says. EADS Deutschland is leading the Typhoon sales campaign in Switzerland, hoping to build on its export success with neighbouring Austria.

The three bidding companies will be asked to submit best and final offers for the fighter deal "in the summer", the source says, but the requirement will not be reopened to other candidates.