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 [EN] Switzerland Replacing its F-5s

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MesajSubiect: [EN] Switzerland Replacing its F-5s   Mar 20 Ian 2009, 17:41

[EN] Switzerland Replacing its F-5s

Sursa: Defence Industry Daily
Autor: ***
Data: 18.01.2009
Citat :

The F-5E/F Tiger II was a follow-on upgrade to the wildly successful F-5 Freedom Fighter, a low-budget aircraft designed to capture the lower tier of the non-Soviet global fighter market in the 1960s and 1970s. A number of countries still operate F-5s, but the airframes are very old. The Swiss bought 72 F-5E/F fighters in 1976, and another 38 in 1981, for a total of 110 (98 single-seat F5E, 12 two-seat F-5F). Some have been leased to Austria while they await their Eurofighters, while others have been retired; somewhere between 54-85 Tiger II fighters are reported to remain in service with the Swiss Luftwaffe.

While F-5 owners like Brazil, Chile, Thailand, et . al. have opted for comprehensive refurbishment and upgrades, Switzerland is looking to replace 3 of its 5 Tiger II squadrons with new aircraft. They will partner with the 3 squadrons of upgraded F/A-18C/D Hornets that make up the rest of its fighter fleet. An initial evaluation RFP has been issued to 4 contenders, but Boeing’s withdrawal means the selection is now down to Sweden’s Gripen, France’s Rafale, or EADS’ Eurofighter.

Testing is now complete. Left-wing opponents of Switzerland’s military are working hard to derail the purchase, but armasuisse has now issued its second and final RFP…

* The Competition [updated]
* The Competitors [updated]
* Contracts & Key Events [updated]
* Additional Readings

The Competition

As the Schweizer Luftwaffe explains in its Jan 17/07 release, without new aircraft the ability to maintain full sovereignty air patrols would decline to just 2 weeks – though 24-hour patrols might be maintained for more than 14 days in a year by shortening the 24 hour coverage periods to a few days at a time, and staggering the periods:

“Sans le remplacement des F-5 Tiger, la capacite de maintenir la sauvegarde de la souverainete sur l’espace aerien, d’assurer le service de police aerienne et de la defense aerienne serait massivement reduite. Avec seulement 33 F/A-18, une presence permanente (24 heures sur 24) de 4 appareils en vol ne pourrait etre assuree que pendant deux semaines environ.”

With testing complete, Dassault, EADS and Saab will be invited to submit a second offer in January 2009, with receipt of those offers expected in April 2009. May 2009 will see the release of the evaluation report prepared by armasuisse, and the Chief of Armament will consult with the Head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) and the Commander of the Swiss Air Force. A winner is expected in July 2009, and the Partial Tiger Replacement is expected to be approved by the legislature alongside Armament Program 2010. Parliament is expected to address the Partial Tiger Replacement in 2010.

Or will it? Whoever wins can expect to face political difficulties after their victory is announced. Switzerland’s purchase of 34 F/A-18 C/Ds, for instance, required a 1993 referendum organized by Switzerland’s socialist and Green parties. The deal passed, but a current referendum proposal aims to ban “peace-time flights of combat-jets in tourist areas,” a move that would make it almost impossible for the Schweizer Luftwaffe to train its pilots. Additional initiatives may be expected from the GSoA (Group for a Switzerland without an Army) as the deal comes close to fruition. With an organized movement in place that opposes the existence of any military in Switzerland, a national referendum can be expected for any new fighter purchase.

The Competitors

At present, the competitors are BAE/Saab (JAS-39 Gripen), Dassault (Rafale), and EADS (Eurofighter Typhoon). At present, however, the expected budget is just CHF 2.2 billion (currently about $2 billion/ EUR $1.45 billion), to cover 22 fighters and the additional Pilatus PC-21 advanced trainers. The high-end participants in the competition could find themselves very disadvantaged, given Switzerland’s budget and need for numbers.

EADS’ Eurofighter, for instance, would yield about 10-12 aircraft within those constraints, based on Austria’s EUR 2 billion buy of just 18, later reduced to EUR 1.63 billion for 15. It is an excellent air superiority fighter, but Austria’s Tranche 1 models lack precision ground attack capability. In addition, Switzerland is just under 360 km/ 215 miles wide at its widest point, and its firm neutrality keeps its air force from deploying elsewhere.

When these factors are added up, the twin-engine Eurofighter will have a difficult task avoiding the perception of over-budget overkill. The plane’s strongest option would probably be a used aircraft sale from an existing partner nation. That may be a viable option, as Tranche 3 purchases look set to strain member country budgets, but cancellation will attract sharp financial penalties. Selling earlier models is one way to ease that strain.

Dassault’s Rafale offers a comparable set of capabilities to the Eurofighter, at a lower price point. It is generally considered to be an inferior air superiority fighter, but it has good ground attack capabilities that make it a better multi-role aircraft than early Eurofighter models. Its spotty integration with several American weapons used by the Schweizer Luftwaffe could become an issue, and so could its delayed integration with the Damocles surveillance and targeting pod. On the flip side, consistent losses in export competitions (a possible sale to Libya remains its only success) will keep up the pressure on France to offer a very attractive deal. Can Dassault keep its price to about EUR 65 million per plane, including initial training and spares (i.e. 22 aircraft within the budget), and offer weapon integration relief?
AIR JAS-39 Weapons Options Eskil Nyholm

The Saab/ BAE team of Gripen International offers the lowest price point of any of these aircraft, with lease-to-buy options underway in Hungary & The Czech Republic and a strong record of industrial offset deals. The Gripen is a solid multi-role performer that is pretty close to the current epitome of what a lightweight fighter should be; its corresponding range handicap, which has often been a limiting factor in fighter competitions against this cohort, is a complete non-issue in this competition.

An offer of 30-34 JAS-39 C/D aircraft that could mirror Switzerland’s 3 squadrons totaling 33 Hornets may be within the realm of financial possibility. JAS-39C/D Gripens would also use an RB12 engine that is closely derived from the F404s powering Switzerland’s Hornets, and are delivered ready to use with the LITENING reconnaissance and targeting pods that Switzerland is buying as upgrades for its Hornet fleet. Given the DDPS’ implicit need for numbers, the industrial offsets, and the potential political bonus of a sale from another neutral country, the Gripen appears to be very well positioned in this fight. The firm’s Jan 17/08 release was already stressing some of these factors.

AIR F-18 to Super Hornet Comparison

Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet offered the advantage of some commonalities with Switzerland’s existing F/A-18C/D Hornet fleet, but in truth, commonality between the aircraft is well under 50%. It’s also an expensive aircraft, with likely flyaway costs of $80-90 million. Australia burned through USD$ 1.3 billion for just 24 basic F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft, with radars and other equipment still to be purchased that will likely raise the price to over $2 billion. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Swiss budget yields much more than 15-18 aircraft, though declines in the US dollar have helped.

As is often the case in Europe, opposition to sales from American firms was expected to be a factor for the Super Hornet. Concerns were also expressed about the ability to fit these aircraft into the Swiss aircraft shelters, many of which are carved into mountainsides; prior to the announcement, there had been rumors that the Super Hornet would be excluded from the competition on those grounds. The Super Hornet was a legitimate competitor, but one flying into strong headwinds.

In the end, the questions became moot. Boeing looked at the RFP requirements, and decided not to bid.

Contracts & Key Events

Jan 15/09: Armasuisse announces an updated RFP, in which the manufacturers are asked to do 2 things: The first is to submit an offer for 22 aircraft. The second is to explain how many aircraft can be delivered for the budgeted CHF 2.2 billion. Maintenance costs will also be evaluated, and the bidders now have a chance to refine that aspect if they wish.

The new RFP incorporates the results of the ground and flight tests, notes functions and performances which do not meet the military’s requirements, and offers an opportunity for additional improvements. Armasuisse also wants the manufacturers to arrange training for Swiss pilots at a base in the manufacturing country, and to submit proposals for cooperation with Swiss industry that enables Switzerland to participate in further development of the chosen fighter. The manufacturers now have until mid April 2009 to submit an updated offer.

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