The Swiss air force is due to acquire 36 F-35A aircraft under an estimated $6.2-billion deal, made official with signatures by the Switzerland’s national armaments director Martin Sonderegger and F-35 program manager Darko Savic. The agreement also covers acquisition of F-35 mission-specific equipment, weapons and ammunition, a logistics suite, mission planning systems, training systems, and initial training.
Switzerland’s acquisition plan was approved by the U.S. Dept. of Defense earlier this year, but it had raised some controversy among Swiss nationals objecting to F-35 purchase costs – currently, $77.9 million for the F-35A variant – and to the implications of the notably unaligned and neutral nation acquiring fighter aircraft.
Switzerland is initiating a plan to replace its fleet of F/A-18 Hornets and F-5 Tigers, mainly used for defensive air patrol missions, with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Swiss also agreed to an offset agreement with F-35 program lead-contractor Lockheed Martin, allowing the manufacturer to conduct business with program suppliers based in that country.
Switzerland chose the F-35 in 2021 over the Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, and the Eurofighter built by a consortium of Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo.
The F-35 is a single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft designed for deployment for ground attack and combat, and available in three variants. The F-35A is designed for conventional takeoff and landing, and the primary operator is the U.S. Air Force.
Nine other nations (including NATO members U.K., Italy, and The Netherlands) are listed as F-35 program partners or participants, while the U.S. Dept. of Defense’s Foreign Military Sales program includes Belgium, Finland, Germany, Japan, Poland, and South Korea.