Inflation swells cost of replacing Swiss fighter jet fleet

Choosing a new fleet of fighter aircraft has proved far from straightforward in Switzerland. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

The final cost of replacing Switzerland’s fleet of military jets has again been called into question by some sections of the media.

This content was published on November 26, 2021 minutes

In September 2020, Swiss voters agreed to CHF6 billion ($6.4 billion) being spent on replacing Switzerland's ageing fleet of F-5 Tigers and F/A-18 Hornet jets by 2030.

In June of this year, Switzerland appeared to have struck a bargain deal with United States manufacturer Lockheed Martin to provide 36 F-35A aircraft for just over CHF5 billion.

But the latest government calculationsExternal link, which factor in inflation, have pushed up the estimated maximum cost to CHF6.3 billion – although the most likely bill is expected to weigh in at CHF6.035 billion.

It was revealed on Friday that initial estimates were based on the price of goods in 2018 and that the likely rise in inflation rates over the course of the decade has bumped up the latest cost prognosis.

The government will ask parliament to approve these figures next year so that Switzerland can sign off on the deal with Lockheed Martin.

Critics challenge US jet

The rising estimated cost may play into the hands of opponents of the F-35A deal, including the Group for a Switzerland without an Army, which is collecting signatures for an initiative to challenge the choice of jet.

Some sections of the Swiss media are also asking whether, based on the revised estimated costs, the F-35A still represents the best value for money from all the manufacturers that submitted a tender offer.

Swiss public broadcaster SRF says another CHF400,000 would need to be spent to fit the F-35As with a more modern weapons system. But the defence ministry says this would not be necessary until 2040.

The government says CHF2.9 billion of the cost of replacing the fighter jet fleet could be clawed back indirectly under the terms of the deal. For example, Lockheed Martin has agreed to place CHF1 billion of orders with Swiss companies in connection with the aircraft procurement.

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