Price of the F-35s for Switzerland increased by +20% more than expected

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BERN, ($1=0.92 Swiss Francs) – On June 30, following a call for tenders launched as part of the Air 2030 program, Switzerland announced its intention to procure 36 5th generation F-35A Lightning II aircraft from the American manufacturer Lockheed- Martin for 5.068 billion Swiss francs as well as five Patriot air defense batteries for 1.970 billion.

In this announcement, the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports [DDPS] asserted that Lockheed-Martin’s offer, taking into account the purchase of the 36 planes and their operating cost over 30 years [or 15.5 billion Swiss francs in total], was 2 billion lower than that which came second in the assessments carried out by Armasuisse.

In addition, he assured that the F-35A had demonstrated that it was the “most efficient” of the three other fighter jets competing [Rafale, Eurofighter, and F / A-18 Super Hornet, note] through its notable technological advance and its innovative, high performance, and widely connected systems for the protection and surveillance of airspace.

However, the amounts announced are no longer relevant. Indeed, while the acquisition contract has just been finalized by the American authorities, the 36 F-35A are now offered in Bern for the sum of 6.035 billion euros. Swiss francs. This significant increase of + 20% is linked to “current inflation forecasts until 2031”.

In detail, it would cost 3.828 billion Swiss francs for the 36 F-35A, 1.927 billion for the logistics package including ground equipment, replacement equipment, documentation, training and technical support provided by the manufacturer during the introductory period, “107 million for ammunition, 86 million” for systems intended for training as well as for planning and evaluation of missions, “82 million for possible technical risks and 5 million for the admitted increase”.

A priori, these forecasts on future inflation do not concern the five Patriot batteries: their purchase price has hardly changed since last June, going from 1.970 to 1.987 billion Swiss francs.

As for the operating costs of the F-35As, if they “prove to be higher than expected until 2031, the United States will have to cover the costs over the supply.” Beyond this date, the DDPS will pay the difference. But the department calculated the costs very conservatively. “In addition, the operating costs tend to decrease”, Darko Savic, the New Combat Aircraft project manager said.

As a reminder, Berne explains that “the relatively simple operation of the system and the information superiority of the F-35A lead to modifications in the training content and change the relationship between flight hours and hours on the simulator.” And to add that this one thus requires approximately 20% of flight hours less than the other candidates and nearly 50% of take-offs and landings less than the F/A-18 Hornets currently in service at the within the Federal Air Force.

However, the figures put forward by Switzerland are surprising. Norway has to spend nearly 9.5 billion euros for 52 F-35A, with an overall operating cost of 24 billion euros over thirty years. “Either Switzerland underestimates its costs, or Norway pays too much,” summed up the daily 20Minutes. But for DDPS, “it’s not clear what costs are included, or not, in each case.”

The ‘Letters of Offer and Acceptance’ [LOA] are one-sided, that is say that they were only signed by the United States. These contracts will come into force as soon as Switzerland has signed them in turn.

And for this, the Swiss government will most likely have to convince the voters, who should be called upon to vote on this purchase of F-35A if the opponents of this project manage to collect 100,000 signatures for a vote. And this, while a parliamentary committee has indicated that it intends to examine the “legality” of the procedure leading to the choice of Lockheed-Martin’s plane.

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