Switzerland's government has allocated Swfr6 billion ($5.85 billion) to replace by 2030 the nation's ageing Boeing F/A-18 and Northrop F-5 fighters as part of a wider overhaul of its air defences.
The government states that the federal defence department has been tasked to draft by early September a procurement proposal, which has then to be approved first by the country's parliament and then voters via a referendum.
However, that public vote will only cover the programme's budget – not the type and number of aircraft to be procured.
That is to be decided by the government – based on expert advice – after a referendum, says Viola Amherd, the head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport.
In January, the government received proposals covering the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35A, and Saab Gripen E. Ground and flight tests of the candidate aircraft at Payerne air base are scheduled to be completed in July.
Under the replacement plan, foreign suppliers will have to offset 60% of the contract value – 20% directly and 40% indirectly – via Switzerland's defence and security industry.
Cirium's Fleets Analyzer shows that the Swiss air force has 30 F/A-18s and 36 F-5s in operation.
The F/A-18s will reach the end of their service life by 2030, while the F-5s can only be operated for air policing operations in daylight and good visibility, the government says. It argues that the F-5s would "not stand a chance against a modern opponent".
In addition to the fighter replacement, the government has allocated Swfr2 billion for the procurement of a new ground-based air defence system with a longer range than existing equipment.
Amherd asserts that without new aircraft and a new ground-based air defence system, the nation will not be able to ensure airspace security.