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Defence Saab withdraws from Swiss fighter jet test flights

Plane spotters take pictures of a Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jet

The Swiss government has set a budget of CHF6 billion ($6 billion) for new jets to replace its ageing fleet and has been evaluating different planes at the Swiss army airbase, in Payerne, including the Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jet

(© Keystone / Peter Klaunzer)

Saab’s Gripen E fighter jet will not participate in tests this month in Switzerland, the Swedish company said on Thursday. This follows a recommendation by the Swiss defence procurement agency (armasuisse). 

“The Gripen E development plan does not match the Swiss plan to perform flight tests with aircraft that are operationally ready in 2019,” Saab said in a statementexternal link. “Therefore, Saab has decided not to attend the Swiss flight tests.” 

Armasuisse confirmed the information in a separate statement on Thursdayexternal link.

The Swiss government has set a budget of CHF6 billion ($6 billion) for new jets to replace its ageing fleet and is evaluating proposals from Saab as well as Airbus, France’s Dassault, and Boeing and Lockheed Martin from the United States. 

Evaluations of the different aircraft will continue through 2020 before the government decides on a replacement, with new jets expected to be delivered by 2025. 

+ Swiss army gears up for future threats

In its statement, Saab said the Swiss tests were only developed for the evaluation of aircraft already operational this year. 

The Gripen E will enter into operational service years before Switzerland has scheduled deliveries and will meet all its defined capabilities, notes Saab. However, the Gripen’s development plan does not match the Swiss test plan. As a result the Swedish company has decided not to participate in the tests in Payerne in western Switzerland from June 24-28. 

Armasuisse asked manufacturers to submit pricing for 30 or 40 planes, including logistics and guided missiles, among other criteria for the bids. 

The issue of new fighter jets has been controversial in the small neutral Alpine nation. In 2014, around 53% of people voted against a CHF3.1 billion plan to buy 22 Gripen fighter jets from Saab.


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