The flight evaluations for Swiss Air Force’s Air 2030 fighter replacement program was completed with the departure of Lockheed Martin F-35A aircraft, the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (VBS – DDPS) announced.
The flight evaluation was conducted at the Payerne Air Base near Bern by Swiss Federal Office for Defence Procurement (armasuisse) and Swiss Air Force.
Four of the five announced candidates completed the flight and ground trials, namely Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II. The fifth candidate (Gripen E of Saab) has decided not to take part in the flight and ground trials following a recommendation from armasuisse and has been since dropped out of the evaluation. The reason for the recommendation is that the flight tests have been designed to only evaluate aircraft that are operationally ready in 2019. Gripen E is currently under-development.
The preparatory work for the procurement of a new fighter aircraft for the Swiss Air Force to replace the F/A-18C/D and the F-5E/F began about one and a half years ago. Based on the requirements published by the DDPS on 23 March 2018, the five candidates handed over their offers on 25 January 2019. The following aircraft were requested by Switzerland and were offered: Eurofighter Typhoon (Airbus, Germany), F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Boeing, USA), Rafale (Dassault, France), F-35A Lightning II (Lockheed-Martin, USA) and Gripen E (Saab, Sweden).
From February to March 2019, specialists from armasuisse and the Swiss Air Force tested the aircraft in the respective simulators. From April to mid-June 2019, the answers to the questionnaire, which the manufacturers had to fill in the first offer, and the flight tests in Payerne were also evaluated.
The aim of the evaluation was to check the aircraft’s sensors in the Swiss environment, the compatibility with the technical infrastructure of Switzerland and the degree of maturity of the fighter aircraft. In addition, noise measurements were carried out by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) in Payerne and Meiringen.
The flight testing included eight missions for each candidate, conducted with one or two fighter jets. All four aircraft that participated in the evaluation competed all eight missions. The following four candidates will remain in the evaluation:
The flight evaluations will be followed by a second RFQ by armasuisse in November 2019, which should be answered by the end of May 2020. The findings from the flight and ground trials as well as the knowledge and data gathered from the evaluation of the first offer will flow into this second, updated request for an offer.
From June 2020 to the end of the year, the evaluation report will be prepared and subsequently submitted to the Federal Council for the type selection.