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Gripen E to give Swiss flight tests a miss

The Saab Gripen E will not participate in upcoming flight tests in Switzerland following a recommendation from the Geneva – but the Swedish company maintains the type’s suitability to recapitalise the Swiss air force.

Switzerland’s procurement agency, Armasuisse, made a formal recommendation that Saab not participate because it only wants to consider fighters that are operationally ready in 2019, says Saab.

“The flight tests are part of the fighter evaluation process that foresees aircraft deliveries in 2025,” it adds. “Gripen E will enter into operational service years before Switzerland has scheduled deliveries and will meet all its defined capabilities.”

The tests will take place in Payenne from 24-28 June. Saab had proposed participating with two aircraft, a Gripen E and an operational Gripen C, but Armasuisse didn’t accept this. Nonetheless, it contends that competitors are showing capabilities on existing aircraft that differ from “the versions offer for delivery.”

“We believe that Gripen E is the best choice for Switzerland and the offer, as presented in January 2019, still stands,” says the company. “Saab is committed to deliver at least 40 Gripen E fighter aircraft on time, meeting requirements and within planned budget, including a comprehensive support concept with local contribution, guaranteeing the most affordable operating costs and the highest level of autonomy.”

In January, Saab responded to an Armasuisse invitation and proposed one option for 30 Gripen Es and another for 40. Other respondents included the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Lockheed Martin F-35A.

In May, Switzerland's government 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.

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 Gripen E won an earlier requirement from Switzerland for 22 examples. This fell through in May 2014 when the Swiss government narrowly lost out in a public referendum on whether to fund the acquisition.

The third example of the Gripen E had its first flight on Monday 10 June, competing a 57min sortie from the manufacturer's Linkoping site.

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