An F-35 Lightning II on display at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

An F-35 Lightning II on display at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann

Swiss Pick F-35 to Replace Old Fighter Jets

The Lightning II beat out the Boeing Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, and Eurofighter Typhoon.

The Swiss Air Force has chosen the F-35 stealth fighter in a $5.5 billion deal to replace its aging F/A-18 and F-5 fighter jets.

The Lockheed Martin-made F-35 beat out the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, and Eurofighter Typhoon. Switzerland also announced it would buy five Patriot missile batteries from Raytheon Technologies.

“An evaluation has revealed that these two systems offer the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost,” the Swiss Federal Council said in a statement. “The Federal Council is confident that these two systems are the most suitable for protecting the Swiss population from air threats in the future.”

The Swiss parliament must now approve the deal.

“We are honored to be selected by Switzerland and look forward to partnering with the Swiss government, public, air force and industry to deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft,” Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, said in an emailed statement. “With the selection, Switzerland will become the 15th nation to join the F-35 program of record, joining several European nations in further strengthening global airpower and security.” 

There are more than 655 F-35s operating from 21 bases around the world, according to Lockheed.

Swiss voters narrowly approved the $6.4 billion fighter jet procurement last year, six years after they blocked an attempt to buy Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets. 

“This time, [the Swiss] held a referendum before this selection,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at the Virginia-based Teal Group consulting firm. “That should be it, unless the opposition can somehow demand another referendum.”

Each bid had to include industrial offsets: the winning bidder must place orders with Swiss firms totalling 60 percent of the contract value.

“[T]he F-35A achieved the best result because it has a marked technological advantage over the other candidates: it includes entirely new, extremely powerful and comprehensively networked systems for protecting and monitoring airspace,” the Federal Council said. “The F-35A is able to ensure information superiority; this means pilots benefit from a higher situational awareness in all task areas when compared with the other candidates. This is especially true for day-to-day air policing.”

Switzerland’s F-35 selection comes as the U.S. Air Force—the largest F-35 operator—has increasingly questioned the affordability of F-35 over the long term. It’s been pressing Lockheed to lower the jet’s sustainment costs.

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The Swiss Federal Council said Lockheed’s $5.5 billion F-35 bid was under the $6.5 billion cap approved by voters in last year’s referendum.

“Both procurement and operation costs are the lowest for this aircraft,” the government said.

Boeing said it was disappointed with Switzerland’s decision. 

“We believe that the Boeing F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet is the right choice for Switzerland, as it would bring unmatched capability and lifecycle value to the Swiss Air Force, including our industrial partnerships and robust services offerings,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to a full debrief to better understand the decision.”