France's Dassault-led Rafale International team has announced its surprise at being eliminated from a Swiss fighter contest, and claimed that the selection of the Saab Gripen NG on cost grounds does not reflect Berne's previous evaluation of its aircraft.

The Swiss Federal Council on 30 November announced its intention to sign a deal with Saab next year for 22 Gripens, with its decision also having ruled out a Cassidian-led bid based on the Eurofighter Typhoon. It confirmed choosing the Swedish fighter due to factors including its lower acquisition and maintenance costs, but conceded that the selection marked a decision "not to position Switzerland at the highest European level as regards the performance of new combat aircraft".

In a statement issued late the same day, the Rafale industry team countered that "The Swiss-tailored Gripen only exists on paper", and claimed that its completion posed "technical development and production risk significantly increasing the financial efforts required of the Swiss authorities". It also challenged the customer nation's wider assumptions on cost.

 Rafale - French air force

© French air force

"The Rafale's capacities would enable the Swiss confederation to meet its operational requirements with a smaller number of aircraft at an equivalent or lower cost, as was demonstrated during the assessments by the Swiss air force," it said.

Detailed flight evaluations of the Gripen, Rafale and Typhoon were completed in Switzerland in late 2008, with the nation having amassed almost a combined 130h on the rival types, including 60h on the French candidate.

Source: Flight International