Swiss decision rolls in F-35’s favour

Let’s begin by the obvious: Finland isn’t Switzerland, and HX isn’t AIR2030.

It still would be wrong to say that the Swiss decision, and especially the way it was made, wouldn’t have bearing on the Finnish evaluation. The odds of the stealth bird just went up.

A Finnish F/A-18C Hornet and an Italian Air Force F-35A teaming up during Exercise Ramstein Alloy 21-2. Source: Finnish Air Force Twitter

I will leave the finer details of Swiss politics to those better versed in that topic, but let’s start by looking at why the Swiss decision matters for HX.

Something a number of commentators have missed is why the Swiss evaluators felt the aircraft was the right choice:

It includes entirely new, extremely powerful and comprehensively networked systems for protecting and monitoring airspace. 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.

The following sentences then goes on to discuss that the aircraft is designed “to be especially difficult for other weapons systems to detect”. The debate about whether Switzerland need a stealth fighter misses the point. The main reason why the Swiss appreciate its effectiveness isn’t the stealth features, but the networked nature and integrated sensors giving the pilots a higher situational awareness. Oh, and by the way: it’s stealthy which is a nice bonus. And it seems set to stay in service the longest. The last two points arguably in of higher importance in HX, but even then F-35 took home AIR2030.

The point about staying in service further resonates with the product support question. ALIS gets good points, the maintenance system is modern and simple, and the large number of both fighters produced in general and European operators in particular ensure cooperation opportunities in both training and operational usage.

Crucially, the calculations made by the Swiss also showed that the aircraft was significantly cheaper compared to the second lowest bid when calculating full life-cycle costs (i.e. acquisition and 30 years of operations), coming in at approximately 2.0 Bn CHF cheaper (3.2 Bn EUR).

The big deal here is that as opposed to several of the recent wins for the F-35 where it has been the favourite from the outset, in Switzerland the F-35 is most likely the most difficult political choice. That the evaluation still found that the F-35 won three out of four categories including combat capability, product support, and cooperation opportunities is significant, as if the race would have been close the temptation to fudge the numbers a bit to ensure a more politically acceptable winner could certainly have been there. And crucially, unlike some other evaluations, the fact that the F-35 wasn’t the bestest and greatest in all measurable ways ironically lends a bit more credibility to the evaluation.

That’s the good news for the F-35, and it would be naive to think that the Swiss findings are taken out of thin air. The grey fighter again cements its position as the new European standard fighter in a way the F-16 did decades ago.

An interesting aspect is the worries about ownership of data and cyber security. I’ve discussed the topic before, especially with regards to the ALIS/ODIN, but the full quote is interesting.

All candidates were able to guarantee data autonomy. In the case of the F-35A, the system’s cyber management, the security of its computer architecture and its cyber protection measures combine to ensure an especially high level of cyber security. As with all other candidates, with the F-35A Switzerland controls which information to exchange with other air forces via data link, and what logistics information to report back to the manufacturer.

This is also certainly a good sign for F-35 from a Finnish point of view, as the cyber security and sovereignty aspect are among the questions still lingering with regards to the fighter. While Lockheed Martin has stressed that it isn’t an issue, it is one of those things that are next to impossible to judge based on open sources. However, that Switss evaluators has reached the conclusion is certainly promising.

But there’s also a few flies in the ointment.

The cheapness is… strange.

I could write a long-winding paragraph about it, but Steve Trimble summed it up perfectly in 280 characters:

A few key points still deserve to be reiterated. There is a significant difference between those struggling with whether to upgrade early blocks and export customers now jumping aboard and getting what presumably will be TR-3 hardware (slated for introduction in 2023) from the start. Especially considering the significant maturity the program has achieved in the past few years it is likely that the maintenance and operating costs will continue on a downward spiral.

However, the GAO isn’t overly impressed, and while originally deliveries from 2026 should have been Block 4, that standard is pushed back, and GAO isn’t sure that the current schedule will hold either.

In 2020, the program added a year to its Block 4 schedule and now expects to extend Block 4 development into fiscal year 2027. We found, however, that the program office did not formulate its revised schedule based on the contractor’s demonstrated past performance. Instead, the schedule is based on estimates formulated at the start of the Block 4 effort, increasing the likelihood that the scheduled 2027 completion date is not achievable.

Perhaps more worrying is how the aircraft became 3 billion euros cheaper to operate – by offloading flight hours into simulators. This is certainly one of those ‘Yes, but…’-arguments. Modern simulators are very good, and with a continued emphasis on things like electronic warfare and advanced (expensive) weaponry, it certainly makes sense to do more training in simulators. The Finnish Air Force is a good example of this, with HX seemingly largely skipping two-seaters for operational conversion, going Hawk->simulator->HX single-seater instead. However, there still are things that differ between simulators than the real thing. A key thing to note is the lack of cues which pilots learn to fly with, everything from vibrations to G-forces which are very difficult to model. Former Hornet-pilot C W Lemoine flew DCS a few years ago, and in the video discussed how flying the real jet differs from high-end commercial and military simulators and how the armed forces are using them. The DCS-specific issues obviously doesn’t apply when you have a properly modelled cockpit, the other issues do.

More crucially, the German longer version of the presser include further details on the process (and overall could function as a good template for the eventual HX releases) and discuss how that part of the calculations were done.

Diese basieren auf den Angaben der jeweiligen Luftwaffen respektive der Marine in den Herstellerländern, wie sie im Rahmen der Offertanfrage bei allen Kandidaten identisch angefragt wurden. Die Antworten der Kandidaten wurden mit den Erfahrungen der Luftwaffe mit dem F/A-18C/D und den Erkenntnissen aus der Evaluation verglichen.

In other words, seems the Swiss have asked main operators about simulators versus real flight hours, and the USAF has returned with a 20% lower number compared to the USN, AdA, and LW. There is preciously little in open sources to explain this difference in real terms. Yes, the F-35’s simulators are good, but the rest are no slouches either. I can see no clear reason why it wouldn’t be possible to run a simulation-heavy training curriculum for the rest of the fighters as well, if that is what you want.

Another key number thrown around is that the F-35 would require 50% fewer take-offs and landings compared to the current F-5E Tiger II/F/A-18C Hornet-fleet. This honestly doesn’t feel overly impressive, as it is unclear to me how much the old and short-legged F-5E pushes up the current number, and it is unclear to me if the comparison is between 36 F-35A and the total fleet of 66 F-5E/F Tiger II and F/A-18C/D Hornets or an interpolated 36 to 36. However, notable is that the Finnish Air Force reportedly has had issues meeting the NATO-standard of 180 flight hours per pilot and year, and while there are some redeeming features of Finnish operations (such as short transits to training areas), cutting 20% of the flight hours while at the same time increasing the complexity of the mission sets and bringing in new roles won’t happen. At least not in a good way…

Which brings us to the numbers. The Swiss are looking at a procurement cost of 5.068 Bn CHF for 36 fighters, which converted to Euros and extrapolated to 64 gives us the figure of 8.2 Bn EUR, well below the 9.6 Bn EUR maximum of HX. So far so good, until you realise that the 10.432 Bn CHF cost of operating the aircraft over 30 years gives 16.9 Bn EUR extrapolated to 64, giving you an annual operating cost of 563.3 MEUR, which is significantly over the FinAF 270 MEUR annual budget.

With 20% less flying hours than the competition.

…and that brings us back to the fact that Finland isn’t Switzerland.

The mission set which 36 F-35A are supposed to handle is described as follows:

As far as fleet size is concerned, for all four candidates a fleet of 36 aircraft would be large enough to cover Switzerland’s airspace protection needs over the longer term in a prolonged situation of heightened tensions. The Air Force must be able to ensure that Swiss airspace cannot be used by foreign parties in a military conflict.

Which is a realistic threat scenario in my opinion. As long as the French suddenly doesn’t get revanchist over the dissolution of the Helvetic Republic, there’s little direct threat.

Swiss government infographic describing how the integrity of own airspace is protected. Source: Swiss MoD

The stated aim for the Finnish forces in a ground war is to:

Making it possible to slow down and wear out the aggressor’s
land attack in selected terrain and ultimately defeat him. All
services and civilian authorities as well as the Border Guard
participate in land defence.

…which can be described by this fancy infographic of the battlefield in 2030.

The multi-domain battlefield in 2030. Source: FDF Homepage

This difference is evident in the DSCA-notices as well, were the Swiss DSCA-notification include a grand-total of 40 AIM-9X Sidewinders, 12 Mk 82 500-lb bombs with JDAM-guidance kits, and 12 SDB-II small glide-bombs. You do not fight a war with that kind of stock, although the possibility to carry on the weapons currently used by the Hornets are there. As has been discussed for Finland, the weapons and spares bought will be a huge part of the overall acquisition costs, suddenly making the 8.2 Bn EUR Swiss pricetag look less than stellar (although granted the Swiss DSCA-notification included more spare engines compared to the Finnish bid). Comparing costs is a case of apples against pears against olives with the occasional mango thrown into the mix, but the resulting smoothie evidently tastes like Finland won’t be able to acquire and operate 64 F-35As at Swiss prices.

More confusingly, if that is 20% cheaper than everything else, there’s some serious discrepancies between what the Swiss asked for and the five packages offered to Finland for 9.6 Bn Euros.

153 thoughts on “Swiss decision rolls in F-35’s favour

  1. Mike

    Hey Corporal

    (sry, i tried to keep it short)

    a rather good summary, but as many – you don’t seem to be critical about the VBS-press release, and leave some important things out:

    “Something a number of commentators have missed is why the Swiss evaluators felt the aircraft was the right choice”

    It simply isn’t the right choice. Switzerland has 3 bases, 1 can’t be used by the F-35, the other is prohibited of regular jet operations from 2025 onwards, leaving one: Payerne.
    Think: airpolice (i’ll come to that later in this post

    “And it seems set to stay in service the longest”
    …yes that’s the big question:
    USAF and USN accelerating their Gen6-projects which shall replace the F-35 as soon as possible.
    RAF cutting their F-35A-order by 50%, accelerating Tempest-development to replace the F-35A.
    Germany wants to buy Superhornets instead F-35, AND (together with France) accelerates FCAS.

    Will the F-35 actually be in service the longest? Sure – it can fly until 2060, but whatif the biggest customer (USAF) totaly replaces the F-35 with something else before that? Can all the foreign customers “make up” for the loss of “the needs of 1500 units”? Can the countrys using the 35A still pay for spareparts and needed upgrades?

    “Crucially, the calculations made by the Swiss also showed that the aircraft was significantly cheaper compared to the second lowest bid when calculating full life-cycle costs”

    And this calculation is gonna be VERY interesting. Because there’s no way the F-35A flying cheaper than the others (USAF still states 35’000USD/flighthour, while all the others are below 20’000!), the numbers the VBS mentioned …stink… to say the least. Remember the Dutch also said “it’s cheaper” then suddendly had to correct the numbers…

    ALSO there’s the training-issue (see below)

    “the fact that the F-35 wasn’t the bestest and greatest in all measurable ways ironically lends a bit more credibility to the evaluation.”

    Actually it doesn’t, it reaffirms the argument of the swiss left, who complained about the Air2030-evaluation was about getting the most modern jet, instead of the “best for the requirements. (and then, the F-35A sure as hell is the winner)

    “by offloading flight hours into simulators.”
    “Another key number thrown around is that the F-35 would require 50% fewer take-offs and landings”

    …there’s the kaviat:
    Swiss pilot do their PPL before entering service, then go to PC7 (then the divide Helicopter- and Jetpilots), jetpilots train on the PC21. After certifying on it, they take first lessons in simulator, then go into doubleseater.

    You’ve written that finnish pilots have jet-experience with the hawk.

    I can’t see the PC21 – as good as a trainer it is – being able to emulate jet-experience, so that pilots can do their first REAL flighthour in a jet in the F-35.

    Leading to the question “is the training now to be done in the united states, or will there be an emergency-funding for some jet-trainers?”
    If trainer: …there goes the savings, and main issue german Luftwaffe has: training in the united states is very expensive.
    (can’t see THAT to be included in the lifetime-costs of the F-35A-offer)

    “The mission set which 36 F-35A are supposed to handle is described as follows:”

    Enter the “operational blindness” of VBS/AirForce higher upps:
    they completly forgot about the airpolice-factor.

    The main use of the “NKF” (Neues Kampfflugzeug, new fighterjet – i use this as there’s the danger of an initiative) will be airpolice. Meaning: intercept-missions with establishing twoway-communication with the intercepted (handsigns).

    Ignoring airpolice, they’ve selected the ONE jet in the evaluation that is too slow if there is only ONE base it can make use off: Payerne. For intercepts over the east of Switzerland, it must reach Mach 1.9 (avoiding heavy populated areas, civil aircorridors, and of course: the alps including the “if supersonic, only in high altitude to not cause avalanches”-requirements.

    So the F-35A is too slow (with Mach 1.6 max) to do intercepts over the east of Switzerland, due to Emmen (Base 2 without regular jet operations after 2025) and Meiringen (runway to short for F-35A) are out of the equation, while atm, the F-18C with its Mach 1.75+ is able to do intercepts – starting from Meiringen…

    Also you have forgotten that the left announced an initiative against the F-35.
    This is particularly important, as the vote (referendum) last automn was VERY close, and that the resistance against american jets at all – due to political reasons (..the way the USA treated Switzerland in the last 30 years) – is VERY high, and the other offers including 40 jets (at least for Boeing and Airbus).

    Don’t forget there’s the report of Claude Nichollier (first swiss astronaut, former interceptor AND attacker-pilot of swiss air force (he certified for Mirage3 and the Hunter)), who stated that the calculation for 36 units is way too low, and that at least 40 units must be accuired. Federal counsil Amherd who ordered this report completly ignored it as “fanboy-writing”. But Nicholliers conclusions are way more reasonable than everything VBS and armasuisse reported! (report can be downloaded from the project-page i’ll link below)

    SO, MY conclusion (i’m ex Swiss Air Force grunt, trust me, i got some insights):
    – the thing being the most modern jet in the offer, which they were looking for.
    – not suited for swiss daily use (airpolice!)
    – it is defenetly not the cheapest, with the others we’d gotten higher numbers and less costs when flying/maintaining!
    – the training-factor is an important one
    – alone the political impact is a danger in itself.
    – most of the advancements of the F-35 can’t be used in swiss cenarios anyway

    Think of it this way:
    if the left and “Group Switzerland without army” formulates the initiative the way that there will be a ban on buying new jets for good (initiatives = a text written into the constitution creating laws), and knowing that the left wants to get rid of the army (incl. airforce; it’s in their party-program!), I don’t see them just phrase the initiative as “the VBS will not be allowed buying american jets”.

    As close the vote was (50,8%yes!!), and the media being VERY left here, it is possible they gonna frame the initiative as “against F-35”, while in truth it is against buying jets at all, media will make sure people will know about the shortcomings of the F-35 (airpolice from a single base) – so the initiative has a real chance of getting won.

    If it gets won, there will be no more airforce from 2030 on.

    So deciding for the most modern candidate, including all the issues and non-met/ignored requirements (airpolice!), might as well be the end of swiss air force.

    Question is: is “the most modern, but not realy suitable, fighter worth the risk?”
    (me thinks: NOT.)

    1. Mike

      Forgot the link, sorry:

      Main-Site is in german, reports aso (lower part of the site, “Documents”) are in multi-languages; some french, some german… Report of C. Nichollier available in french and german, here the link for hte german one:

    2. Hello,
      Just wanting to point out whether you realise how this looks? The readers have absolutely no way of knowing whether your credentials are true, the only thing we know is that someone claims that they based on earlier experience and open sources have realised what all politicians and officers who have access to classified info have missed both when it comes to prestanda and politics, and therefore the country has chosen a completely unsuitable aircraft? Based on that look, it unfortunately doesn’t seem too convincing.

      1. Mike

        Do I have to appologise for assuming your readers are able to inform themselves?
        I assumed I can leave it open for the reader to factcheck my “claims” reading for themselves. Guess I was wrong then?
        As for politics, the claims about bases and the initiative – yeah, why should you trust a swiss telling you everything about the political lefts attempts to abolish the army, when all (swiss) newspapers aso are full of reports of them. (check the swiss social partys program; abolish the army is their 2nd goal (1st: joyn the EU); the GSoA (Group Switzerland without army) has only one goal – and many initiatives done. Easy enough to google)
        The rest – ok yeah. Most infos to be found are german results; not everyone understands german, get it.
        Would it help my “credibility” that I was one of the first “private first class” (pls inform yourself about why first PFC, and the rankstructure of swiss army before and after 2004) of swiss Air Force and my name to be Michael Keller, that I served in Observer-Company 24 and later in “Higher cadre education” (not sure how to translate it correctly: Generalstabsschule)? Dealing every day of my military service with exactly THESE questions (scenarios, tactics (incl. ranges) and officers (one of them a certain Lt.Gen Müller, Colonel back in the day) aso)? Wouldn’t you just degrade my credentials as “well so you say, can you proof it”?
        One thing I give to you: the claims about the F-35A being outclimbed by an F5 (the F5 climbing faster than the 35), as this was a evaluation-leak, and thus disappeared from public very fast, thus can’t be proofen.
        Hey look I get it: you are a fan of the F-35. Cool with me, I’m not trying to change your mind.
        I was just merley pointing out
        a) that the usecaes for a jet must not be ignored
        b) why for SWITZERLAND, YOU left out many aspects (go check them yourself, Google Earth is a thing, enter “Payerne”, find the runway, and put a path towards St.Gallen avoiding citys and the whole LSZH-area to check “my claim” about why the F-35A being to slow for an intercept within 10min after 5min-alertscramble (numbers to be found in the Reports and news about the “new” 24/7 Airpolice-doctrine in Switzerland. Google it, plenty of friendly newssites reporting it, go ahead, choice is yours)
        c) …that with the selection of the F-35 in Switzerland, incl. numbers, something is VERY off, extending beyond the botchered evaluation-process for the “search of the most modern jet they can get for 6mrd CHF” (check the project-page of Air2030 if you don’t believe me. Hint: Requirements, to be found under “Documents”, Link at the end of the post.)
        d) describing the danger of the coming initiative of GSoA and SP (who were against buying a new jet already back last year, that’s why we had the referendum in september 2020 in the first place), and why this time, a political choice for a Eurodelta would have been the wiser move. (on the project-page of Air2030 you also find plenty statements for “why there’s no plan B”, essentially leading to the conclusion: if the left wins the initiative, no more airforce. ALL written THERE.
        Btw: are you aware, that I could easily reverse your argument against you, Corporal Frisk? How credible are YOU when you just quote the pressrelease (funfact: that i linked in the last article), ignoring the expertreports linked by me, written requirements AND even the corresponding motions, questions aso from within swiss parliament, THAT CAN BE FOUND ON THE SAME SITE YOU QUOTED?
        Project-page for Air2030 (use if need be)
        …everything you need to know to check my claims can be found right there.
        Btw, I recommend the subsection “Parliament”, too, to understand the threat of the left (reading the motions of Priska Seiler Graf (SP member of Nationalrat, also one of the GSoA-highest). Again, is your friend (you can switch the page to french or italian, if you understand these languages better)

      2. Jason Simmons

        Just a quick thought, the Australian DoD budget papers show RAAF is paying around AUD$25k per flight hour for it’s current fleet of 43x F-35A fighters…

        I’d not get too caught up in sustainment, unless ALL the variables are known. A lot of other users fly US owned F-35’s in the USA whilst training as just one example of a cost the US has that other nations do not. This has occurred for many, many years. Those costs are paid upfront by the USA and cost recovered later from the individual nations…

        Does that cost recovered money ever get factored into the CPFH? I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest it does not…

    3. Karl Rieder

      Dear Mike,

      What fairy tale are you telling here?

      Emmen remains open for jet operations, but is not a war airfield.

      The F-35 was in Meiringen during the evaluation and there were no problems.

      The QRA squad is already flying from Payerne. Only when this airfield is closed for inspection work will flights be made from Meiringen or Emmen.

      The young pilots have been switching directly from the PC-21 to the F/A-18 Hornet since 2008.

      Most of them fly solo after just 4 hours in a two-seater. Switching from the PC-21 to the F-35 will also be possible thanks to simulator lessons.

      1. Mike

        Oh realy? I providing sources ( the official site of swiss government) = not credible.
        Karl just raising some points (and wrong, too) – credible and makes sense.

        You f…king kidding me?

      2. Mike

        Well, Karl, at least i’m not blatantly lying!
        (not telling the truth = lying)

        Emmen will be (future tense) closed for REGULAR jet operations from 2025 on when patrouille suisse will be grounded. Check VBS-pressreleases (2018 i believe. might have been 2019)

        Meiringen: yes, the F-35 been there. Quarterfilling of the tank (start from Payerne, landed almost on the last drops of fuel), no internal loads so it could start (directly back to Payerne to refule and then do the evaluation-missions!). When landing, it rolled to the END of the runway and bairly stopped there in time when they landed (with dragchute! – the Typhoon stopped in the last third of the runway – without chute).

        Did you hear about that F-18 incident in Meiringen? Granted, during takeoff, imagine the other way around when landing. What would you prefer: a fighter that can stop on the runway in time, or one that is in danger of overshooting even when unloaded?

        Young pilots mature from PC21 to (simulator and) DOUBLESEATER. Not to the singleseater, you mentioned it, too:
        Simulator for F-35: c’mon other planes also have simulators that are pretty good, why shall the F-35s be so much better you don’t need a jettrainer for the pilots?! I already hear the crys if someone finds out a crashed pilot had only 2 hours on a jet.

    4. Mike

      Folks, I hope you speak french.
      Found this video of a french fighter-pilot (Ate) who explains why the F-35 is the wrong choice. He actually mentions the ONE task the thing will have to fullfill over Switzerland. and why it is not suited for that task (think the incident of the polish Mig29 flying through germany getting intercepted in Switzerland in 2018)

      (sadly no subtitles. Hope you’ll understand never the less)

    5. Borén

      “the F-18C with its Mach 1.75+ is able to do intercepts – starting from Meiringen…”

      Only on paper, in practice once you put weapons and fuel tanks on the F-18 the max speed will drop rapidly (this is just high school level physics) due to increased drag. Since the F-35 carries everything internally it does suffer from increased drag.

  2. Vesa

    I also made similar calculations about annual operating cost a few days ago. If this is more than double of the annual HX budget, how can the offer include 64 fighters? If so, the planes will not fly much in real life, only simulations. Or does the offer include much less fighters even when Scott Davis of Lockheed Martin confirms 64 fighters ( This is very strange!

    1. Mike

      Because the offer in Switzerland doesn’t include the operational costs, and sadly enough the whole calculation wasn’t published (yet). for the whole last two years, the federal counsil said the operational costs are NO factor that’s considered within the air2030 program (check the project-page for that, subsection documents -> requirements, and parliament about motions (and answers to them) about operational costs…

      As for the strangeness of the costs the pressrelease of VBS state:
      add to it, that Finnland will get far more weapons with their deal than Switzerland, with Odin the more advanced maintenance-system (CH: ALIS), aso.
      …IMHO, the numbers don’t add up.

      While the project here in Switzerland was somewhat transparent (thus the critics from the beginning about the requirements being wrong (“most modern jet for the money” – pls read the requirements from the link below if you don’t trust me)), the decission sure as hell is NOT. Except that a lawyer-company has proofen if armasuisse evaluated according the “requirements”, which they sure did (for the search of the most modern jet)… Written in the press Release, CF!

      Project-page, subsection “documents”:

      subsection “parliament”:

      (I recommend to get work on the “Expertenbericht” from Claude Nichollier (documents). @Corporal Frist: you too – long read, but eye-opening!

  3. asafasfaf

    One thing that is very different compared to Finland is that Swiss compared 2019 fighters. Finland compares 2025 and 2030 fighters, plus future potential after that.

    So how does Rafale F4 or F5 technically compare to F-35, or what if F-35 Block4 gets massively delayed? Well Swiss answer is that we don’t care of such things, not part of the evalution in any way.

    Official USA reports tell a lot of worrying things about F-35, everything from dead-end logistics to hole ridden cyber security and between. Swiss answer is that such reports were ignored. Indeed a lot F-35 praise is like copypaste of LM’s marketing material. This is total opposite of how HX runs things, it’s been publicly said that “we dont trust what manufacturers say to us” and very complex data correction systems are in place.

    Infrastructure cost was not part of the acquisition cost in Swiss competition. They claim that less than 100 million euros will cover that, even just for one base, that sounds unlikely in Swiss cost context.

    Then the really big question, operating&upgrade cost.

    USAF: cost is totally unsustainable and we do not believe in LM’s future promises. We are going to cut the planned fleet size.

    Swiss: It’s even cheaper than Super Hornet.

    LM is offering some sort of binding fixed cost 5-10 year “leasing” style agreement for both Finland, Switzerland and for USA. As I said before, USAF is in “nice story bro” mode when it comes to this offer. At the end of the day either USAF or Swiss got it wrong, both cannot be correct at the same time when it comes to future F-35 costs.

    And that is really the million dollar, or billion euro question for Finland too, how do you predict F-35’s lifetime cost? Once the jets have arrived on the home asphalt, your negotiating position gets quite weak. What if next lease-deal is much more expensive? What if availability was not promised? What if extra costs are jumping outside of the original deal? It’s not like car you just bought, you are stuck with it for 30 years, with goods and bads.

    1. Roland

      Well this is what GAO says:

      “Since 2012, F-35 estimated sustainment costs over its 66-year life cycle have increased steadily, from $1.11 trillion to $1.27 trillion, despite efforts to reduce costs. The services face a substantial and growing gap between estimated sustainment costs and affordability constraints—i.e., costs per tail (aircraft) per year that the services project they can afford—totaling about $6 billion in 2036 alone (see fig.). The services will collectively be confronted with tens of billions of dollars in sustainment costs that they project as unaffordable during the program…. Cost reductions become increasingly difficult as the program grows and matures.”

      Link is here, a “highlights” page of the same PDF I linked earlier:

      Published: Apr 22, 2021. Publicly Released: Apr 22, 2021.

    2. Mike

      Valid thoughts and concerns.

      Especially the 100mil infrastructure-costs are terribly low for such an advanced system! C&C must be made compatible (they’ve choosen the french one in 2019, Rafale’d been included, not the F-35), serverfarms both for Alice and the F-35-operation, antennae and satelite-connections must be created, also the hangars must be retrofitted with the F-35s needs (US bomber-voltage! Aircondition for maintenance (due to small errormargins and high temp-differences), aso; with swiss prices, there’s NO WAY the costs being below 100million swiss francs only! the day already!

      IMHO, the numbers of VBS mediarelease don’t add up. They’re way off possibility when acknowledging USAF, GAO aso-reports.
      Especially the “F-35 being cheaper in its lifetime”; how so, when the flightcosts of the F-35 is higher than any of the competitors, the bird full of blackboxes needing maintenance in specialisted maintenance-bases outside switzerland (what to do if a bird can’t take off due to an issue, and swiss mechanics mustn’t touch the problematic part? – roadtransport? Getting the specialists doing a housecall (gosh the costs of that!)?), and ALIS being replaced with ODIN for all the bugs the system has? What if a sparepart needs special delivery from Lockheed?

      Seriously, I’d LOVE to see the calculation leading to the VBS-statement.

  4. asafasfaf

    I add one source:

    “Auf Nachfrage sagten sie damals, dass die Infrastrukturkosten nicht Gegenstand einer Kosten-Nutzen-Rechnung innerhalb des Wettbewerbs gewesen seien.”

    “Das Verteidigungsdepartement geht derzeit von rund 100 Millionen Franken aus, die für die Aufrüstung von Flugplatzinfrastrukturen notwendig sein werden.”

    You can translate it with google or read directly.

    1. Mike

      Sadly I fear on this page, all the critics of the F-35 (for ANY reason of critism) are being labled liar, fafiction-writer or, by the corporal himself, “not credible enough”

      Btw as one can not assume people here informing themselves (acc. the corporal):
      1st paragraph:
      “When asked at the time, they said infrastructure costs had not been the subject of a cost-benefit calculation within the competition.”
      2nd paragraph:
      “The Defense Department currently estimates that about 100 million francs will be needed to upgrade airfield infrastructure.”

      …german word “derzeit” indicates “THEY DON’T KNOW YET”. Meaning the evaluation didn’t show the EXACT needs of the F-35, so they have to ESTIMATE the costs.

      (just think of the bomber-voltage used by F35A (400Volts) instead of the normal 350Volts of jets, trainers and helicopters. They have to DOUBLE the electrical systems, did they include these costs into operational costs?)

      In “political speak” this means:
      at MINIMUM 100mil francs, not included in the offer, might easy be more.
      5.04mrd becoming at least 5.14. Also 100mil are not realistic in Switzerland for such a project.

      …if I remember the Article in Skynews (.ch) issue 4/2021 correctly, the Superhornet-offer included 40 planes, more weapons, and no need for changes to infrastructure for 5.3mrd CHF.

      Sorry, unsuited jet, not the cheapest to buy, defenetly not the cheapest to operate, and the numbers including some severe estimates.

  5. Roland

    CF, I have a question. What if two or three of the contestants end up having very very similar points in the situations? The big bosses run all the sims, and they come up with an end result that it is not possible to declare a clear winner, but two or three choices are very good and would all be a fine choice – from a military point of view? What is going to tilt the decision then?

  6. Jouni Laari

    You sound more and more like a Saab Gripen enthuastic or marketer. Make a similar study of Saab E/F development and capability issues.

    1. I have a bit hard to be too worried about sounding overly Saab-positive as I’ve spent the time since the last post moderating comments saying I’m too positive to Lockheed Martin and the F-35. You don’t need to go further back than to that post to find me pointing out that there are no 39E in operational service, making discussions about their servicability rates somewhat academic, just to give an example.

  7. EMK

    Nice post, thanks.

    A few words about simulators and HX.
    Fighter jet simulators are not meant for learning stick and rudder skills.
    A fighter pilot learns those skills during the PPL training (in some single engine piston) and then in a jet trainer. They get plenty of the G-vitamin and other experience before they are ready for the “formula one”

    So, the lack of G-forces and vibrations in fighter simulators is not really a thing (although having those would be an icing on a cake).

    Besides, no matter how good the DCS and some other consumer flight sims are, comparison to a real flight simulator is not fair. You cannot even talk about the two on the same day, really.

    Real simulators are extremely accurate on things they are rated for (there are several certification categories on the civilian side, but I am pretty sure air force organizations use something similar to determine what tasks a simulator can be used for).

    Sims in the most demanding category replicate the plane, its systems, and the flight environment really well. That means, for example, flight characteristics are measured to be accurate with very narrow error bars. Real sims use often the real AC components to achieve that accuracy.
    Modern sims are quite good at simulating the environment as well (incl. the weather, airfields, other traffic and so on).

    Simulators remove the need to waste precious real flight hours for things that can be learned and internalized on the ground (in a sim). Type training is but a tiny part of that.

    More over, simulators make it possible to practice situations too risky to try out in the air with a real plane. (Emergencies like fire, equipment malfunction, damage due to hostile fire and so on.)

    Finally, a there are simulators that are also good for developing, evaluating and practicing tactics… just think how much that can not only save in costs, but also improve the tactical maturity of the AF. At least F-35 sim supports this kind of work. Maybe others too, I don’t know.

    All that does not mean pilots do not need real air time.
    A rule of thumb has been (traditionally) that a pilot needs around 120h annually to stay current.
    I am not sure if that is true anymore though. Modern planes are different in so many ways.
    Anyway, the real advantage of simulators is, IMO, that they make the time spent on a real aircraft much, much more efficient.

    1. I recommend checking Lemoine’s comments, he describes how the military uses simulators. DCS is DCS, which I noted in the text, but he’s discussion was of a more general nature. As I side-note I’ve had the opportunity to fly a few rated simulators, active military ones (including a 360) as well as a civilian heavy one, and I have no problem seeing his side of that argument.

      1. EMK

        I’ve seen lot’s of Lemoine’s videos and he talks about training and simulators quite a few of them.
        He’s old school pilot and his attitude reflects that. 25 yrs ago people didn’t feel they needed cell phones either. Now go and try to convince them to give up using the damn phone and see what happens 🙂

        That aside, a pilot viewpoint is just one aspect. A training organization has another viewpoint. In fact, each training organization is different. Civilian airlines have adopted simulators much earlier than military. Some did it sooner, others later (kicking and screaming) as regulations changed.

        Military will follow suit. No doubt about that. And I think the new 4+ and 5th gen fighters push mil organizations to that direction. Not because they necessarily want to, but because those new planes are more about systems and information management and old school “learning procedures by heart” just don’t cut it anymore.

        “As I side-note I’ve had the opportunity to fly a few rated simulators”
        Good for you. Have you ever considered getting a pilot license? Its worth every penny if you’re interested in aviation. (And that would also give you a proper context for the sim experience.)

    2. Duckman

      Actually the military is starting to use commercial simulators more because they have a lot to offer at an unbeatable price. Yes, full-on simulators are better but they are also more expensive so ironically it comes down to flight hours again. There are a myriad tasks you can practice in a high-end commercial sim like DCS, and for cash-starved air forces linking them and doing more advanced stuff is not a bad option either.

      The military moved on from simulator snobbism a long time ago.

      1. Randomvisitor

        Makes sense, same thing with army. Armored brigade at Parola has used simulator running on windows pc to train tank crews over a decade now, i think? If i remember right, they use some custom made Leopard 2 controllers, but everything else is off shelf.
        Tank is of course different beast to fighter, but still same thing about saving money.

  8. asafasfaf


    “three losers submitted detailed industrial dossiers, while Lockheed Martin reportedly submitted practically nothing”

    “Above all, the losers in the selection process are puzzling as to how the Americans were able to undercut them in such a way. The Europeans only found out on Wednesday that the US offer for the F-35 is a good two billion cheaper.”

  9. Kjell

    I assume Switzerland will never deploy its fighter jets in any international conflict but at least Finland have or had a Rapid Deployment Force which included 6 F-18 an according to Norway the F-35 needs at least the double amount of personnel compare to the F-16.

    “When the Air Force is now out on its first foreign mission with the F-35A, there are around 150 people partipating.

    – Yes, the F-35 is more resource intensive than the F-16, both in terms of operating costs on the plane and the support with more personnel. But we have been aware of this all the time and planned accordingly, says Chief of Defense Haakon Bruun-Hanssen to Teknisk Ukeblad.”

    “She (Bruun-Hanssen) briefly summarizes that the F-35 requires more than the F-16 for support, security and support systems to plan and carry out missions and analyze them afterwards. Among other things, what she describes as the security footprint is staff-intensive.

    – We have national rules for safety and also American rules related to the F-35 program that must be complied with. Planning and preparing to get the maximum effect from the aircraft when it is up, requires more operational support personnel, she says.”

    1. Mike

      FYI – Switzerland is member in the nato partnership for peace.
      In 2015 and 2016 (those doubting shall search the annual report of swiss airforce for these years), Switzerland had 4 F-18C flying in Lithunia (Litauen – what’s the english name for the country) at the russian border.

      That’s btw why Claude Nichollier (the expert-report to be found on the Air2030-project page (subsection Documents) recommended 40 planes instead 36, as 36 are hardly enough to sustain operations over Switzerland, otherwhise we can’t fullfill the pfp-requirements and being kicked out (not sure why this would be bad, especially after 15/16, but i think it has to do with training…??)

      1. Kjell

        Yes the Swiss Air Force has participated in ACE15 and was deployed in Sweden during the exercise, Aldo Vicki the Detachment Commander Swiss Air Force talked about the need to do a different fuel planing due to the large exercise area

        And has tested weapons on their F-18 at Vidsel test Range.

        So I assume they do deploy outside Switzerland even if I was thinking more in deploying in harms way and that it would be against Swiss neutrality.

        Sweden has participated twice with the Air Force, in Congo with the J29 Tunnan, which Austria has had, and cleaned out the oposition completely and in Libya with the Gripen. And then I don’t include the voluntary Air Force on the Finnish side during the war.

        So there is a need for more personnel for Switzerland with the F-35 then.

  10. Ferpe

    The Swiss number gives clues to something I argued in a late entry in the “Lifting the fog” thread:
    You don’t pay only the recurring (production) cost as a new entrant into the F-35 program; you pay your share of non-recurrent and recurrent costs (development including upgrades costs + production cost).

    First, why would this be the case: A third party that orders 36 jets from the program can’t just step in and expect to pay only recurring costs. This would leave the original partners, that took the risk of developing the jet, to pay the new entrants share of non-recurring costs. He steps in, and sherry picks the fruit of all their risk and cost with no charge other than the unit production cost.
    There would be a partners agreement that says; if LM and DOD are successful in getting more partners, the existing partners get their non-recurring costs diluted.

    The Swiss procurement cost of $152m per jet supports this. If we deduce the acquisition cost with the cost of the very thin weapons package (a total of $45m calculated with a typical FMS cost for what DSCA cleared with Congress: 40 9X and 50 training 9X, 18 JDAM kits, 12 mk82+12 trainers, 12 SDBII+8 trainers), we are at $151.5m for 36 jets. This includes the logistic support system (ALIS), spares, training, simulators, support, docs.

    This can be compared with non-recurring + recurring cost of the US procurement of the F-35 at $163m, taken from the 2021.04.22 GAO report (… Current DOD plans call for procuring 2,456 F-35s at an estimated total acquisition cost of just under $400 billion). This is for all variants, F-35A, B and C. Of these the A is the cheapest and this is what the Swiss (and the Finns) got offered. An acquisition price of $151.5m, including logistic support system (ALIS), spares, training, simulators, support, docs is therefore plausible (the DOD figure also includes these items but the F-35A for USAF spread these items over a larger number, so an acquisition cost of $130-$140m per tail is reasonable).

    It means we can retire the discussion about getting the F-35 for $80m. You don’t step into a fighter program and pay only the off-the-dock price; you have to pay your share in getting the jet to the functionality status it has as you take delivery.

    This is not unique to the F-35 program; it should be the same for the others. If a state runs the program by itself (like the French with the Rafale), it can be more flexible with what customers pay, but not in a multistate partner program like F-35.

    The running costs of $10.43m per tail and year are more difficult to understand. With an assumed 150 Flight hours per year and tail, this equates to $69,553 per flight hour, a far cry from the latest $38,000 for the USAF F-35A.

    1. Locum

      Nothing difficult to understand.

      The annual F-35A operation cost per tail in Denmark was in 2020 DKK 70 million, was then approx EUR 9,43 million. Source: Aktstykke 31 (F-35A acquisition authorisation).

      This is, better was, quite in line with the original annual F-35A operating costs in the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Originally, they planned F-35A ops with 37 birds, from two Main Operating Bases (MOB) and 1 Support / maintenance base (Woensdrecht).

      With 46 ‘Stubbies’ currently on order, the noise ‘contours’ for 2 MOB’s becomes too large. So they have to re-open De Peel as a third F-35 air base. De Peel has just 1 runway, and houses now the Dutch Ground Based Air Defense units. The total F-35A re-construction costs for Woensdrecht and 2 MOB’s was originally budgetted at just EUR 105 miljoen. Which is a considerably ‘lowballed’ figure.

      1. Ferpe

        OK, if we convert the Danish yearly operations costs per tail we have 70,000,000*0.16= 11,200,000 which with 150 Flight hours per tail and year gives $74,667 per flight hour.

        It seems to be a trend if you say this is what the Dutch airforce sees as well. This is for the past year I understand, so we are at about twice the USAF cost then. As USAF reduces the cost, these costs should reduce as well but they start at a very high level.

    2. Locum

      The Netherlands had untill 2017 / ’18 a fixed F-16 replacement budget of EUR 4,5 billion with a fixed annual exploitation budget of EUR 270 million.
      Realistic calculations concluded that for 4,5 billion a F-35A fleet of between minimal 18 and maximally 30 birds could be procured.
      The EUR 270 million fixed annual exploitation budget allowed operation of approx 28 F-35A’s.

      1. Ferpe

        The EUR 270 million ops budget per year for 28 F-35 ends up at $77,000 per flight hour if you assume 150 Flight hours per year. We are in this region at present it seems.

  11. Tom

    This is an Airforce that only operates under office hours. Most of their airspace is closed for exercises so instead they train in Sweden. Switzerland lacks any potential enemy as they are embedded in Nato countries but not a member of an alliance. French aircraft are de facto banned since the 60:ies when France bribed swiss officials to buy Mirage III. So how does this impact the finnish fighter decision? It doesn´t.

      1. But seriously, if you have a military background you can’t possibly believe that verifying someone is the same as someone dropping a name and a googlable backstory? I personally believe that you are who you say you are, but no one here has any proof about that one way or the other.

      2. Mike

        Nope – but the way you have done it (with my post), it looked rather as personal attack to discredit the statement, not to be conserned about the arguments mentioned in the post. As I’ve mentioned: “would it help you, if i name my credentials” (and again, I was right, was i? Now it’s held against me for “just merly stating a name and units no one can check”…).

        While from all the others all kind of – easy to find out – missinformation is spread, without questioning their arguments. While I constantly quoted reports, media-releases, parliamentary motions and expertises to be found on the project-page of Air2030, if people would just take the burdon of going there themselves.

        …making it look like this blog being “pro F-35” due to all criticism agaisnt that fighter …well essentially ends up in personal attacks. Which is bad, bc this blog usually is very informative and professional.

        Read Ferpe’s post about the numbers and why they don’t match up.
        Who’s gonna mention “highly polished marketing-numbers” if not for people like us with enough background-knowledge and intelligence to add the numbers correctly? How should we point out, if something of a governmental decission “zum Himmel stinkt”, so to speak?

        And both LM-offers stink!
        Think about the numbers; and do a little analyses if the numbers for BOTH offers are plausible. (28 planes and an extensive weapons-package for just 3mrd Euro more? Someone gets ripped off, or someone gonna have a to endure a giant “project goes over budget”. NOW is the time to speak up.)

        But hey, just question warning voices – it’s your blog, you’re the boss…
        Thanks, bye and good luck for the HX-decission.

    1. Mike

      Tom, you need to update your knowledge:
      “office hours” – luckily gone. Causes for that were:
      a) the left an their airnose-argument causing the F-18 to not be allowed starting after 17:00 for “being too loud” (stupid argument imho). After the F-5 lost its nightflight-clearence in somewhen 2004, there was no more jet that could take off.
      b) that’s why THE LEFT (sry, but it is always them!) caused budget-cuts so that even a 24/7 military radar-operation was out of the question.
      c) with the Gripen-referendum (2013), parts of the budget to buy the Gripen would have been used to reestablish 24/7 airpolice, first radar-operation and “foreign aid” (french offered good prices), then after first tranche of Gripen deliverd: them used for alert-scrambles. thanks to the left (who else), no Gripen, no 24/7.

      …since January 2021, 24/7 operations are reestablished, and the F-18 is allowed to take off for alertscrambles after some severe airspace-intrusions happend (to be read in the annual reports starting from 2017 onwards!) causing the left to rethink the “airpolice-factor” (sadly, like many fans of the F-35, they didn’t get the “intercept-speed and why that is important”-part of airpolice).

      Most of the airspace is closed, that’s correct, but not for exercises (they use the same closing-category, sadly enough):
      a) natural parks are closed (we have many of them)
      b) avalanche/landslide-areas are closed (think of the permafrost-issue!, quiet understandable, right?)
      c) heay populated areas and some tourist-regions are closed (rightfully so!)

      …leaving an awefully little room to fly around, and most of that room is allocated to takeoff/landing-corridors and waiting-pattern-area for Basel. Zurich and Geneva, and the transit-corridors “right of Basel” and “right of Zurich”. That’s btw why a decission for the Rafale would have been wiser: a purchase from the french would have allowed using their vast training-areas (that are very close to swiss borders!!). Also explains why we are in need of an interceptor that is fast enough! …it has to fly around those closed areas, making the way to cover longer, causing “Mach 1.6 being to slow for Switzerland”…

      Nato: we are member of Nato PfP, and seen MANY occasions that sourrounded by Nato means shi..t, eg. when the polish Mig29 in 2018 flew through Germany and were intercepted southwest of St. Gallen, and escorted back (while Switzerland got fire for having a lock on the Migs when they were over Germany already, why Poland didn’t even get a slap on the face for invading germany with ARMED Migs!!). Or when Italy in 2008 cleared the lybian airforce to use their airspace to attack Switzerland, AND use the italian bases for refuel and rearming.
      (“With friends like these – who needs enemys”)

      As for bribing – there was no bribing, but “political favours” back then (maybe you ment the purchase of the SuperPuma, where there was actually a money-flow from France towards the EMD-minister back then). The Mirage-Scandal is “debriefed” (in german: Aufgearbeitet, don’t know the correct translation);


      Well watch the ambassadors movements. Watch which finnish politician talks to whom.
      If there’s lots of traffic between US-officials and the finnish gov – you know what’s going on:

      Because the F-35 deal federal counsil Amherd announces makes ABSOLUTLY NO SENSE AT ALL. Watch Ferpe’s callculations, he’s more spot on than what the armasuisse/VBS said (probing my sources, I think they calculate costs per flight-hour with an amount below the ones of the Rafale! Though, innoficial information, no confirmation for a) is it true or b) can you provide a source – but it’s the only explanation why they say the F35 shall be cheaper to fly than the others!!!!).
      Also add, that Rafale and SAMT/P (Eurosam) were the favorites due to price (eurosam) and suitability (Rafale) right up until the Biden/Putin-meeting in Geneva, after that Biden met with Amherd (not the acting president, which’d been Guy Parmelin who only shook hands before the Putin-meeting!!!!!) for 30 Minutes. Now both F-35 and Patriot shall be the best and cheapest, while the argument for the F-35 are so ridicoulous (all the things its actually better than the others can’t be used in Switzerland!!!) and obviously not true (numbers – 36 jets for 5,2 without needed infrastructural ammendmends shall be cheaper than 40 jets for 5,8 without the need of changes to the infrastructure!!? Does 2+2 equal 22 now??)

      Also compare the numbers: 36 planes for 5,2 mrd Swiss francs, almost no weapons (so small of a package and so “non-specific for the F-35” you can neclet that (same package as Boeing offered, Boeing-Offer about 5,7mrd francs, for 40 jets). about 4,95mrd euros atm. …how many planes are offered to Finland with the extensive weapons-package to it, for which amount of money?
      Look, it’s simple: either switzerland has been ripped off, or the finnish budget will be massively exceeded!! Then add why the brits just reduced their F35A-order by half (it’s all over british newspapers – hint: too expensive to fly)…

      1. Tom

        I had already provided a link that informed that since end of 2020, the Swiss airforce now operate s24/7. However, it is a joke that they have operated in only office hours. For me the swiss defence is not for real – a perception that Switzerland can be “neutral” in a conflict with Russia or China? Good luck with that one. What is lacking is understanding of the reality an combination with pragmatism – this is 180 degrees contrary to the finnish mindset.

      2. Mike

        Yes, – i had a rather big backlog of comments, was working “oldest to newest”.. My appologies.

        And you are right: it was a joke, an humilation to be honest.
        Worst thing: flightban for the F-18, budget-cuts causing no more 24/7 mil-radar (easy to do with milita – ask Samuel Schmid why HE didn’t come up with that idea, today they’re recruiting more Radar-soldiers in Airforce than others (good thing!!)!) aso – all the idea of the left, who also used the “no 24/7”-argument in the 2013-vote against the Gripen (first they’re crippling the airforce than humilate them then using the crippling to cripple them more – not ONE newsoutlet in Switzerland pointed that out!)… Thank god they came around after the 2018-incident.

        As for defense – absolutly right!
        Especially with a jet-type that’s nicknamed “Hangarqueen” and only 36 unit of it. Then again, at least swiss military higher upps a) opened the files from the “Reduit-time” back in the 1940s, where now everyone can read that it was not planned to stand up against germany in normal battles, but that the border-companys had the task to keep the germans busy enough until the infantery-units “in reserve areas” scattered into partisan-units. Same now: everything to hold up an invastion to prepare a partisan-war. (everything else is not realistic anyway)

        As for neutrality:
        with Nato PfP that’s pretty much gone anyway, especially since swiss F-18 were patrolling the russian border in Lithauen due to “russian agression”.
        Also, at least for airpolice aso, contracts for collaboration are in place with 2 of 4 sourrounding countries, especially with Austria (who’s in the same situation as Switzerland: one political side fighting everything that has to do with the army, causing all kind of havoc… Just think of 2002-2003, with the CIA-flights from xyz(south europe) to Rammstein and Getmo; Switzerland had the F18 up, Austria the CIA-flights… in 2004, Austria and Switzerland had F-18 up, and france and hungary the CIA-flights…

      3. Tom

        Thanks for the reply. Just for the record -. I love Switzerland. My wife is swiss german and my brother in law is a swiss colonel.

      4. Richard

        UK is the ONLY Level One partner in the program, and that is why it is strange that they are reducing orders. They have however said that one of their reasons is that they are not getting Meteor and ASRAAM integration as fast as they would like. So it seems that all development is just as slow as before – it should be obvious that it is not going to get any faster at any point.

    2. PrinsBernhard

      About past bribery scandals, let’s look at Lockheed-Martin’s record :
      Bribery of officials in the following countries (that we know of) : The Netherlands, Japan, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and, most tragically, West-Germany, as those bribes cost 115 F104 pilots their life, there, and earned the plane the “widowmaker” label.

  12. Bjørnar Bolsøy


    Should be mentioned that the Danish eval used 250 hours per aircraft per year, not 150. Further more it used 260 hours in deployments and and 290 hours participating in international missions.This was for all candidates.

    1. Ferpe

      OK, so this puts the flight hour cost at $44,800. Anyone knows the flight hour assumptions for the Netherlands?

      1. Locum

        Royal Netherlands Air Force Cost Per Flight Hour direct costs, is approx EUR 25.0000. CFPH direct plus indirect costs is EUR 43.550 per September 2019.

        US Air Force officials off the record, estimate the F-35A CPFH at around USD 50.000 in 2012 dollars.

        in 2013 the Costs War Room was set up to try to decrease F-35 operationeel costs.
        Instead, those costs increased. Just like the B1-B and LCS US Navy project, the F-35 suffers from the overlap in development and production phase (is called concurrency).
        Which means that deveolpment mistakes and problems will be ‘Baked in’ the end product. Experiences with for example B-1B and LCS learn that concurrency will cause a fundamental unreliability in that weapon system. The over ambitious / too short scheduled System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase was in fact a System Development and Discovery phase.

        The Pentagon does not believe anymore in F-35 CPFH reductions. In fact there is a (large) risk that exploitation costs go up.

        Later more,

    2. Locum

      Yes, 250 flight hours per year and per tail. BUT … the Danish calculate also an average Mission Capable Rate of 70 %. 70 % of 250 = 175 hours.

  13. Swedish chef

    The second paragraph confuses me. Shouldn’t the odds go down if the F-35 has improved its chances?

  14. Herciv

    You’re using DSCA publications to compare the weapon package between AIR2030 and HX but DSCA isn’t contractual. Have you an Idea of the actual weapons package in the f-35 offer for AIR2030 ?

    1. Ferpe

      The content of what DCSA presents and clears with Congress isn’t contractual, but I’ve understood it as the envelope of what is cleared to sell without further clearances. Any extensions over what’s in there have to be cleared with Congress again. Or is this a misunderstanding of the procedure that all FMS has to pass a Congress approval?

      1. Karl Rieder

        IMHO, this is correct. The F-35 will be purchased with a small weapons package. However, new AMRAAMs AIM 120 C7 were delivered recently and more pieces of this missile were ordered independently of the F-35.

        I guess there will be a new order in the 2030ies. Maybe for the Meteor, or a new American missile.

  15. JoJo

    Hi Mike, you start one of your many post with the followig: “Well, Karl, at least i’m not blatantly lying! (not telling the truth = lying)”

    Later you say: “Meiringen: yes, the F-35 been there. Quarterfilling of the tank (start from Payerne, landed almost on the last drops of fuel), no internal loads so it could start (directly back to Payerne to refule and then do the evaluation-missions!). When landing, it rolled to the END of the runway and bairly stopped there in time when they landed (with dragchute! – the Typhoon stopped in the last third of the runway – without chute).”

    The jets landing in Switzerland May 31 2019 was from Hill AFB in US with serials 13-5077, 13-5079, 13-5081, 13-5083. AFAIK none of these have ever been fitted with a drag chute. At present time it’s only the F-35A in Norway that use the drag chute on any F-35A.

    If you don’t prove me wrong – you are i fact lying.

    1. Mike

      Well, Jojo, Karl opened with a personal attack so I returned the favour. don’t like it? Call out Karl in the first place.

      Meiringen/Dragchute: while I missed the photo-event in Payerne, I was nearby Meiringen with a good look on the runway when they were there.
      I admit I have no idea if the planes were equiped with dragchutes, but I defenetly seen the F-35 (and nope, as former AirForce-Observer I can destinguish an F-35 from an F-18 or F-5) using a dragchute (sry they are pretty obvioius), and almost being able to stop at the end of the runway with the chute.

      1. PrinsBernhard

        Amazing how any criticism of the F35, however factual and objective it endeavors to be, makes you a target for social-media like mob attacks.
        Mike my friend, make sure to drop your phone at the end of the afternoon, enjoy a glass of fendant outside, and forget about the crap that is being dumped on you.

      2. Bjørnar Bolsøy

        For the record: Only Norwegian F-35s have drag shutes.

        Relevant post I did on years ago describing how the AA-1 easily stopped within the 8000 feet runway:

        “Comments on the september 15. AA-1 test flight by LMs chief test pilot, Jon Beesley. The flight was conducted to test performance and handling with full internal weapon stores of 5000 pounds:

        I had the opportunity yesterday to fly the F-35 for the first time with the INTERDICTION COMBAT load of 2-GBU 31 (2000# bombs) and 2 AIM -120 missiles. In current fighters there is an expectation of performance degradation when carrying 5000# of ordinance but the internal carriage made any degradation hard to discern.

        The acceleration in MAX AB takeoff was very quick and interestingly there is an increase in the acceleration rate above 120 KCAS. The takeoff roll was very near to the 3500’ prediction. Once airborne I came out of AB relatively soon after lift off and continued to climb and accelerate in MIL power in a 10 deg to 15 deg climb attitude. There was plenty of performance. The climb out with full internal weapons carriage was particularly impressive to me.

        The climb rate seemed to be only slightly hindered by the stores carriage with climb angles near 15 deg in MIL power while in a 30 deg bank turn back over the field. Very pleasant to see clean fighter climb rates and angles while carrying a combat load. The chase aircraft still required brief inputs into AB to keep up with me. This is especially impressive because the 325 KCAS climb speed is well below the optimum climb speed profile for the aircraft.

        We only did a brief handling qualities test point on this mission but the handling qualities with this combat loading were indistinguishable from the aircraft with no stores.

        Landing occurred with 4500# of fuel and was easily stopped inside of an 8000 ft. runway length with brake temperatures cool enough to taxi straight back to the hangar.

        Note that 8000 ft. refers to the runway length, not the stopping distance.
        Chase was an F-16 with “most powerful engine” and no weapon stores.
        Take off fuel was 13000 pounds.”

  16. Richard

    Let me get this straight.

    F-35 is more expensive to operate than planned. -> USAF will cut down on the numbers of F-35 and procure an “F-16 replacement”.

    But a smaller number of F-35’s are going to eat the budget anyways, because they are more expensive to operate. Higher cost per hour X less planes will produce the same expenses as previously budgeted.

    And. The cost of upgrading F-35s to block five and so on is not going to be any less expensive. It is going to cost the same amount of money.

    The money for developing the “F-16 replacement” will have to come from somewhere. Also, the money to operate the F-16 replacement will have to come from somewhere. Where will it come from?

    The F-35 will live on, because it is impossible to stop the train any more. It means jobs for large numbers of people. Also, many allies rely on it.

    1. PrinsBernhard

      While we are are looking at past bribery scandals, let’s look at Lockheed-Martin’s record in that matter :
      Bribery of officials in West-Germany (F104 sale), The Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Saudi-Arabia.
      Wikipedia article but public knowledge in the concerned countries as well.

    2. asafasfaf

      F-35 program is protected by two things, generals and jobs.

      Those jobs can be transfered to other projects and those generals who rammed F-35 project forward(which was a mistake), are retired or in a process of retiring. New generals have the freedom of being F35-critical as they are not turning their coats while doing so.

      USAF will focus on NGAD and T-7 can work as a armed light fighter, while F-35’s upgrade program languishes.

  17. PrinsBernhard

    While we are are looking at past bribery scandals, let’s look at Lockheed-Martin’s record in that matter :
    Bribery of officials in West-Germany (F104 sale), The Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Saudi-Arabia.
    Wikipedia article but public knowledge in the concerned countries as well.

    1. JoJo

      You post old things that now are more than 40 years ago, and you have posted the same three times now. I think most people have got your history lesson now. And most big weapon firms was involved in bribery at some point in time. Boeing, Dassault and also Saab have been there.

  18. Silver Dart

    @CF, just a minor 1.4 Bn EUR error when you write
    “coming in at approximately 2.0 Bn CHF cheaper (3.2 Bn EUR).”
    Would have said something like 1.8 Bn EUR instead. It’s already painful enough, don’t make it worse 😉

  19. Bjørnar Bolsøy

    “Landing occurred with 4500# of fuel and was easily stopped inside of an 8000 ft. runway length with brake temperatures cool enough to taxi straight back to the hangar.”

    To clarify: So the AA-1 prototype being 1900 pounds heavier than the production F-35 with 5000 pounds of weapons and 4500 pounds of fuel (almost the entire internal fuel of the Gripen C), had no problem landing on the 8000 ft runway – with no chute.

    Also, with 5000 pounds of weapons, 13000 pounds of fuel, 1900 pounds ‘over weight
    ‘ and with 700 pounds less thrust than production F-35s the chase F-16 with “most powerful engine” had to use brief afterburner inputs to keep up, all while the AA-1 prototype was not climbing at an optimum angle. Granted, the chase was carrying one – possibly two – drop tanks as far as I recall.

    1. Ferpe

      @Bjornar, I understand the urge to get the small field operational stuff out of the way.

      As one who has landed fighters on these runways (not 8,000ft, which is plenty, but 6,600ft which is the normal runway length in the (Non-NATO) Nordic countries, where pulling the chute was a last resort (as it’s not a 100% sure thing to work) and which we avoided 95% of the time (I flew the Draken), stopping with a chute inside 8,000ft is not something that makes you go whoa! In fact, it’s pretty dismal.

      The typical road strips that you want to operate off to give you survivability and operational flexibility are 3,000ft long, and they can be icy. Preferably you shall be able to operate there without a chute, as, as said, the times when the chute fails you make a misery of the roll-out, lands in the over-run, and blocks the base for all other returning aircraft.

      1. Bjørnar Bolsøy


        Appreciate your insights. I’m reminded of the RNoAF short field training in the 80s with the F-16. It was a requirement to operate from the civilian 800 meter (2600 ft) “chicken network”, as it is affectionately called, that scatter the north.

        However, the tactical effects of deploying to these dispersed air fields were questionable, with only a light configuration being feasible. A pilot told me something to the effect of ‘What relevant mission could you actually do in those circumstances?’. So the F-16 could operate in those conditions, but not doing very much meaningful in a modern, multi role context.

        Also reminded of of the Norwegian 1975 fighter evaluations, where the Viggen was playing its card of short field operations. The Viggen concept was thoroughly evaluated, but the problem was that Norway’s geography is long and slender with little infrastructure in the north, and we anticipated an attack from the north. This in contrast to the Swedes who had a wide, lateral geography and mainly anticipated an attack from the east.

        In the words of one of the pilots participating in the ’75 evaluations: “We fly lengthwise, whereas the Swedes fly across”. So we had much greater emphasis on range, among other criteria, which disfavored the Viggen in the end.

      2. Ferpe

        @BBjorna. The problem is that when you are in the range for e..g. an Iskander it only takes 22 Iskanders to nail the FiAF to the ground at day 0 of a conflict if the requirement is a field of 8,000ft or longer (Finland has 22 airport/bases with >8,000ft runways what I found).

        So an enemy that possesses missiles type Iskander doesn’t have to risk a single FiAF fighter in the air. He takes out 22 airfields (their precision is there to pinpoint a runway middle) and then rolls in undisturbed. It takes days if not a week to get a runway operational again when a conventional Iskander has made a hole in the middle.

        The only way to guarantee an operational airforce after day one is extreme dispersal. during the gray zone. For this, you need to operate with relevant payloads from hundreds of road stretches as well.

      3. Swedish chef

        The fact that most Finnish airbases are within A2G missile porté is a well known fact.

        This might be a plus for the Gripen since FiAF then would very easily be able move their aircraft to dispersed basing in Sweden before the hot war begins. FiAF wouldn’t even have to aknowledge the move being tactical, they can claim it’s excerersice or maintainance.

      4. Yama

        Bjørnar Bolsøy,
        though, the F-16 is a plane with known issues with short field operations, one of the reasons why it was rejected by Swedes and Finns.

  20. JoJo

    Ferpe, you don’t disable an airbase permanently even if you hit it with one or more Iskanders. In Syria they used the runway just a few hours after they was hit by Tomahawk’s, and I’m quite sure they have taken this into the calculations even in Finland.

    1. Ferpe

      There’s a difference between an Iskander (a 4t ballistic missile with a 700kg warhead with max M6 speed (hit speed unknown to me)) and a Tomahawk (1.3t missile with 450kg warhead and level subsonic flight before hit). The hole these make will be very different, you can’t transpose the damage consequences from the Tomahawk to understand what an Iskander hit does IMO.

      This is also why I refrained from mentioning the Iskander-Ks (Russian cruise missiles similar to Tomahawks).

      1. People have been trying to make holes in concrete runways for well over half a century. Turns out they are surprisingly difficult to make permanent.

      2. Ferpe

        I don’t think we have many examples of a 4 tonnes ballistic missile hitting a runway. I can’t find any, can you?

      3. Swedish chef

        It would be interesting to see the difference in crater size. How much of the added kinetic energy will be translated into ground mass displacement?
        Not so sure the actual missile will make that much of a difference. From what I’ve seen of aircraft crashing into solid objects it seems the airframe disintegrates on impact.

        But if the Iskander can replicate the properties of ground penetrating bombs the 700kg warhead could be a very nasty surprise.

      4. JoJo

        Well, your 4 tonn Iskander-K don’t come down as an 4 tonn missile. I would guess more than 2,5 tonn are the solid propellant, and all of that will be gone when it hits ground.

    1. JoJo

      And who have the biggest job to do in that regard?

      “Lockheed Martin, as prime contractor for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is responsible for about 39 percent of the stealth fighter’s sustainment costs, explained spokesperson Brett Ashworth. DoD — primarily the Air Force — is responsible for approximately 50 percent; and engine maker Pratt & Whitney the remaining 11 percent.“

      Over the past five years, Lockheed Martin has lowered its controlled cost per flight hour by 44% and expects to lower it an additional 40% over the next five years.

      1. Kjell

        I must say that you have a strange idea of responsibility, so LM designs a bad aircraft that do need a lot of maintenance oho that cannot be our responsibility and chooses a bad engine that also needs maintenance oho you can choose your own engine instead.

        So why do you even fly the aircraft if not maintenance will a piece of cake.

        And you obviously didn’t mention industrial partners and global suppliers so LM is absolutly not responsible for anything.

    2. Mike

      Thanks for this link – very important to know.
      Sadly (and I hope I’m wrong), it doesn’t look too well for Finnland, neither (just look at the F-35 fanboys in this comment section!

    3. Znail

      Table 10 and Table 12 combined gives a rather bleak picture for F-35 availability for any European customers. That is bad enough for Switzerland, but Finland wants to be able to use it’s planes for defence and that places rather higher demands then peace time use.

      1. Mike

        Yeah, now it’s confirmed what the USAF said recently:
        “the F-35A is a catastrophe”

        As for Switzerland: resistance is rising, urging the parliament to correct the type-decission.

        With the GAO-report, these urges are refuled. Let’s just hope the parliament DOES correct the type-decission (before the left goes life with their initiative, bc THEY will make sure of the GOA-report for sure)

  21. Yama

    One question which especially comes out of the Swiss evaluation is: why is Super Hornet so uncompetive on cost grounds?
    DSCA announcement for F/A-18E/F was nearly billion dollars higher than F-35. Final Swiss calculations show similar or bigger advantage for F-35 (I presume Super Hornet was second cheapest, that is not sure ofc).

    I find this very hard to explain. Recent flyaway cost for Block III Super Hornet in US budgets has been around $70 million. This is much less than even the lowest recent F-35 flyaway cost. DSCA structures are pretty similar for both planes (unlike Finnish DSCA’s, where Boeing offered Growler).Super Hornet does need to buy attack and IRST pods separately, whilst they are fixed equipment in F-35, but that is not near enough to catch up in unit price. Weapons packages are similar for both (ie. minimal). Also Switzerland should benefit from reusing some of their existing Hornet Classic infrastructure for Super Hornet, reducing the need to buy new equipment.

    Only open item seem to be spares. Does Lockheed Martin offer very small selection of spares along with the plane and then counts on the user getting spares ‘as needed’ from the international spare pool? This is something which was done for Danish evaluation (there, acquisition package did not contain any spares for F-35).

    1. Mike

      Well, as the details aren’t open yet (it’s only known what the companys published), the F-35-Offer contains (like all the others) a “sealed” supply of spareparts predelievered to guarantee autonomy for 6months during crisis… (but all did so, except the “sealed”-part, which is LM-only: tehm saying “ok you may open your sparepart-container now”…!?)

      As for your question: I guess no one will be able to answer this, as there is no answer other “something’s off here”! (thus the broad resistance against the F-35 here in Switzerland: no one believes what the VBS has told us, as it is so obviously wrong)

    2. Blue 5

      $76m vs. c. $105 m for an F-35A according to 2021 budget documents. Even if the USAF does not cut their buy (and they will to 800 – 1,000 airframes), that will go up. Cost for Bl. 4 is currently in the ‘shrug-shoulders’ cost estimate department so caveat emptor.

      Again, I don’t know what the Swiss are smoking or ‘accepting’, but this verdict simply does not hold up. The aircraft ‘faults’ are debatable though some will continue to be a headache for major users. The cost is an issue, the combination of the 2 for Switzerland is….well good luck in affording your fighter force in a useful, economical or sensible way.

  22. Poika

    How important is it for a country using the F-35 to also have access to AEW&C aircraft?

    Currently, it looks like every country buying the F-35 will have an AEW&C system up and running along with it. And regardless of fighter aircraft, every country bordering the Baltic has either their own AEW&C systems or access to them through NATO, except for Finland. Here’s a crude map I made, showing NATO in blue, AEW&C operators in green, with red stars on countries buying F-35s:

    If either Switzerland or Finland get the F-35 but don’t have AEW&C, they’d be unique in Europe. It sounds like the Swiss want something for air policing, where getting the full military capability out of a system may be less important.

    In an advanced, offensive-focused plane like the F-35, do you need to have increased vision and coordination to make full use of the platform under wartime conditions? Or does the F-35’s technology make AEW&Cs redundant?

    1. Richard

      This really opens up a can of worms, and these are questions that I am not qualified to answer. But answer I will, because I am interested.

      “Attack” could mean interdiction bombing, meaning things like bombing of bridges and trucks and such. It could mean anti-ship activities. And so on.

      But I would argue that “attack” on strategic targets could mean collective national suicide. Just a quick google at the ballistic missiles of a potential opponent should reveal that there is absolute violence in store. This is a philosophical problem that I have with the F-35.

      I would recommend a favourite article of mine, “Without Mercy” by Jukka Rislakki. One link is here:

      In order to read it, you need to register with The Economist. This is not current information, but does give some background info on this corner of the world.

      Here are some quotes from this writing:

      “During the Cold War, Finland occupied a strategic position between two hostile blocks and was an object of interest to the superpowers as both a buffer zone and an overflight and military transit route. Both sides cultivated the potential to use tactical nuclear weapons against targets in our (i.e. Finnish) territory, at least pre-emptively. Both engaged themselves in intensive intelligence activities in Finland and in the bordering areas…. The Finnish military informed the government in 1958 that there were “a lot of nuclear targets” behind our eastern border. Nowhere else were vital Soviet targets so well within the reach of the western military apparatus…. in the top secret Nuclear Yield Requirements document of 1964 the Kaukonen bridge is shown as one of the possible objects of nuclear targeting in Finland: country code FI, target number 03000, number 0091 on WAC chart, length in feet 150, width in feet 21.25… NATO’s battle plans called for the use of large numbers of nuclear weapons against targets in a belt that extended from Kola via Finland and the Baltic states to Poland. NATO assumed that Norway was defensible only by using nuclear weapons, and Norwegian generals very much favored these weapons. The alliance’s intelligence service compiled from 1952 onward lists of hundreds of targets, some of which were nuclear targets in Northern Finland. Soviet bases in Kola were only about 100 kilometers from the NATO border, and it is now known, that in 1959, for example, NATO had 54 targets in Kola alone that could have been destroyed by nuclear weapons.”

      I am not trying to put USA or NATO in bad light here. This was a specific time in history, and if there was war, then everyone would have been nuked. So that’s not the point. But to understand the big picture, we need to know history. I don’t really have the big picture myself, but have made some progress.

    2. Ferpe

      I’m critical of the F-35 where I think it’s due but it has many strong points, some unique (like stealth).

      Of all the aircraft in BAFO, it has the best radar except for the ECRS2 of the RAF Typhoon variant. It’s an LPI (Low Probability of Intercept) radar and it’s very powerful due to its 1600+ TRMs. Combine this with the large internal fuel of the F-35 and the low fuel consumption of its high bypass engine when at CAP (it gives a high fuel burn in burner though). Add stealth but for the lowest frequencies of the Russian radars and you have a capable area surveillance platform.

      The problem is you have to keep something like six two-ships at constants CAPs (Combat Air Patrols) to keep one side of the country under constant surveillance (may I suggest the east side 🙂 ). The negative is, this exposes the F-35 fleet to some of its weaknesses, a low MTBF, and high flying costs. It will stress the ground operation to keep these aircraft in the air.

      Only the SAAB bid changes this as it contains two dedicated AEW&Cs, with 11 hours of endurance on CAP (my performance model of the F-35 gives it an endurance on CAP on internal fuel of about two hours). This radar is also longer range (it’s larger and C-band instead of X-band) and manned by a surveillance specialist crew (both platforms also have ESM to collect hostile activity data, the SAAB one once again with specialist operators). They both have capable datalink systems to share the collected data.

      Of the entrants except for the SAAB bid, the F-35 is the best surveillance platform. The Typhoon has an even better radar but its ESM system is weaker and it has the worst time on CAP in my modeling of the entrants (its internal fuel is limited and its bags are only 1,000l each).

      1. JoJo

        ECRS Mk2 will definitely be a good radar, and of course the supplier will say that this is the best in the world. The United States has been making AESA radar for more generations than anyone else, and much of the functionality is in the software. When it comes to the number of TRMs, the number is probably exactly the same as AN / APG-81, and no AESA radar is made today that does not support LPI. Fortunately, none of us has any basis for saying anything significant about which of the radars is the best.

    3. Throwaway

      There is an excellent military aviation podcast on youtube with an episode on the F-35[1]. In said episode the two pilots briefly discuss (at 1:14:00 & 1:38:30) the F-35’s ability to operate without an AWACS. The short version is that the F-35 doesn’t need an AWACS. At the later part the other pilot expands on it a bit (apologies in advance for any mistakes in my transcription)

      “Now, this is not to say that an AWACS is not a viable or critical tool that we have. It’s incredibly valuable. It helps us do things that you certainly couldn’t always do and/or would want to do in an F-35. But in my cockpit, and I saw this in the raptor and I saw it in the F-35 even expanded


      We routinely, and almost never utilized an off-board system like an AWACS and when we did, we never relied on the information they passed, because we had so much more high fidelity information. A Four ship of raptors does not need an AWACS to conduct missions”


      1. Yama

        Fighters with LPI radars have an enormous advantage over previous generation fighters as their RWR typically can’t detect them: this means that for example F-22 can keep its radar on through the mission and achieve enormously superior SA over older types of fighters even without using outside information.
        However RWR technology in newer fighters employs new techniques and the undetectability of LPI radars is no longer guaranteed, thus forcing them to use stricter emission control and rely more on offboard sensors like surveilance radars.
        Another factor for AEW aircraft (and surveilance radars in general) is that they employ different wavelength than fighter radars, meaning they’re less vulnerable to stealth or active jamming which might compromise a fighter radar.
        So no, I don’t foresee newer generation of fighters making AWACS aircraft irrelevant. Quite the contary if anything.

  23. Ferpe

    It’s possible to do a theoretical calculation of the strain a 24/7 surveillance of Finnish Airspace from the air would put on a higher fleet and its ground crews/MRO organization.

    The F-35 has an MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of 6 hours at present according to a recent GAO report. While this is in all sorts of flying and CAPs are benign flying, it shows the scale of the problem of using a fighter for airborne surveillance in a grey zone situation, where you want 100% airborne coverage to detect low-level intrusions and scan for force buildup behind borders.

    Here the math using the type of CAPs described:

    Coverage FH Faults
    2H 24 4
    24H 288 48
    24/7 2016 336 per week

    While a fault might still keep the fighter in the air with limitations in capability, it needs repairing, ideally before an all-out war.

    I understand Finland has airborne ESM/ELINT aircraft but I don’t think it includes radar surveillance capabilities.

  24. Blue 5

    Actual availability given here, just in case anyone was fooled by the sweeping ‘70%’ statements – this is what you see when you actually break down the figures which is a long and boring process but shows the useful data and this tends to cover the combat not total fleet. Note the FMC number, not the ‘can do circuits’ figure:

    For TL.DR:

    “Specifically, it noted, the average MC rate for aircraft in the F-35 fleet—indicating the jet can fly and do some of its multiple mission types—improved from 59 percent to 69 percent for all services from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2020, while the average full mission capable rate—meaning it could do all of its assigned missions—rose from 32 percent to 39 percent over the same period.

    The Air Force’s F-35A full mission capable rate was higher than that of all services—54 percent over that period—but the objective was 72 percent.”

  25. Karl Rieder

    Some thoughts on the political process of the fighter jet procurement in Switzerland.

    The Swiss parliament will decide on the purchase of the fighter jets in an armaments program in 2022. It can change the number of jets, or not buy the selected jet and turn the entire program back to the government, or postpone the decision. However, it cannot select and procure another fighter jet itself. It is always the Swiss government that selects a fighter jet and submits it to parliament for approval.

    The Swiss citizens have the right to launch an “initiative” to ban the purchase of fighter jets. An “initiative” means an amendment to the constitution. Therefore, in addition to the majority of the voters, the majority of the cantons (states) of Switzerland must also agree. That is difficult to achieve.

    An “initiative” per se has no delaying effect on the procurement of the fighter jets. It is currently unclear whether and how the two procedures, approval by parliament and initiative, will be coordinated.

    1. Mike

      Correct, BUT the majority of cantons is only needed for a obligatory Referendum. Facultative Referendum and Initiatives don’t need the “Standesmehr”.

      Lets hope the parliament rejects the F35 out of political reasons (the lefts initiative, endangering the airforce as awhole)…

      No matter WHY armasuisse recommended the F-35: if this typedecission endangeres the further existance of swiss airforce, it is not worth it. Especially since Evaluation-Second’s (Rafale) only shortcomings were lack of stealth, lack of optical sensor and lack of “exstensive networking-options” only usable if there’s an access to an AWACS. Eventough the Rafale HAS networking-options similar to the F35 (just not that extensive, YET the Rafales don’t require an AWACS for networking!)

      (either parliament rejects, or federal counsil will use a eurodelta as “compromise” for counterproposal if the vote has to happen – this typedecission is a desaster, it was well known that if they choose american, there will be resistance! …why…)

  26. Bjørnar Bolsøy


    I’m not saying that the F-16 is a stellar short field performer – its breaks are not designed for that and the cute, while shortening the stopping distance by 50 percent, is there primarily due to icy and wet runways – but it can be done under certain conditions. My point was rather what types of missions it (or even a Viggen) can really do in those conditions. A light configuration, with a centerline and a few AAMs, might provide a defensive capability, but not much else.

    1. Yama

      However, that ‘not much else’ might be all what is needed. Anglo-American airpower is obsessed with long range air strikes with heavy takeoff weights, but not everone has same needs. Role of neutral countries air force is primarily defensive, and traditional CAS/BAI was/is preferrably done over short distances, from bases close to the battlefield.
      Certainly, FAF has not given up dispersed basing, and regardless of what aircraft wins the HX, that state of affairs is not like to change. Incidentally, I don’t think much-ballyhooed ‘huge runway requirements’ of F-35 is any sort of handicap in the contest. After all, FAF operated MiG-21 from road bases despite its notoriously high landing speeds.
      (Logistical footprint might, however, but that remains to be seen).

      1. Bjørnar Bolsøy


        I won’t disagree with that assessment. Different countries have different requirements.

  27. Bjørnar Bolsøy

    JoJo wrote:
    “Fortunately, none of us has any basis for saying anything significant about which of the radars is the best.”

    Granted, but I think the numbers are an indication: The US so far has produced about 2000 fighter AESAs, operating for about 20 years and flown well in excess of a million flight hours. In the next decade a further 3000 AESAs are planned and moving towards GaN has already begun, with the first being delivered to Navy F/A-18s in May. This, before any other nations (sans, barely, the Chinese) have even started to field AESAs.

    1. Yama

      Japan fielded AESA fighter radar prior to US, Rafale has been delivered with AESA since 2013 etc.
      Other nations have been somewhat slower to adopt AESA for fighters, it’s true, but it is because technology was not really very mature yet. First generation AESA were only marginal improvement over PESA or even best MESA.

      1. Bjørnar Bolsøy


        I stand corrected. I forgot about the French and I didn’t mention the Japanese because it’s just 98 produced units and they don’t export. Still, the US has a mammoth lead in the fighter AESA game.

    2. Kjell

      And from DOT&E about the Super Hornet’s and the Growler’s APG-79 AESA radar “SCS H10 testing showed improved AESA reliability, and while it demonstrated the highest reliability to date since introduction of the AESA in 2006, it fell short of its reliability requirement. Although the AESA provides improved performance compared to the legacy mechanically-steered radar, DOT&E has assessed the radar as not operationally suitable since the 2006 IOT&E because of poor software stability and BIT performance. Fault identification and isolation functionality have improved, but the AESA false alarm rate remains high. Additionally, the F/A-18 has demonstrated interoperability deficiencies with on- and off-board sensor inputs.”

      1. Bjørnar Bolsøy


        If anything, the DOT&E reports illustrates the challenges and intricacies that face any fighter program. It would be very interesting to read comparable reports for other fighters, but unfortunately no other country share the openness of the US in this respect.

  28. Rav

    First of all. CF first sentence in article is very true. Finland is not Switzerland. Geopolitics are totally different. Schweiz needs air interception. I do not see much of the change in requisites from 2008( which I red). Additionally I would say also “patrol” . Both Rafale and EF are better at that than F-35. The results of 2008 clearly showed that. On the other hand with more air fields you would probably be fine with weaponised Red hawk or M-346 and for sure Gripen. Technically with F-35 they could fish for some “stealth coms” and extra awareness, other than than maybe seeing what neighborhood is doing??. Do not now for what? Politically it’s completely different matter. Maybe they need to kiss US ass? Financially LM will probably confuse the matter so much that the no one will no better after they count the expenses after 10 years of having it. Switzerland needs simple interceptor not a F/A-35 which is more A than F :-). On the other hand in today situation Schweiz do not even need that. Flying newest iPad will probably only hurt your pocket.

    1. Bjørnar Bolsøy

      Rav wrote:

      “Schweiz needs air interception. I do not see much of the change in requisites from 2008( which I red). Additionally I would say also “patrol”. Both Rafale and EF are better at that than F-35. The results of 2008 clearly showed that.”

      Curious, how do you explain that the Swiss deemed the F-35 better in those respects? And just for the record: The F-35 was not part of the 2008/2009 evaluations.

      1. Mike

        May I give an anser, too?
        …because the air2030-evaluation was looking for the “best and most modern fighter for the money”, presuming all bases can be used up until 2060. They didn’t look for “the best suited jet for Switzerland” as they did in 2008.

        Otherwhise “speed” and making use of the shortest of the 3 runways (btw: Meiringen 2km, Payerne 2,5km, Emmen 2,4km) would be deemed more important than stealth and sensors Switzerland can’t make good use of anyway (especially when the federal counsil announced in the type-decission, that with the F-35, there will be LESS flights than with the others (the sensors do only good if they’re flying, they don’t work from the ground)

        Go to the project-page of Air2030 and read the requirements. You’ll find out, that “airpolice”, thuse: intercept missions, are not to be found in there. (docs are available in german, french and italian)

      2. Rav

        Sorry I was not precise enough. What I wanted to bring across is that one of the requirements where badly written 2008 or 2030. As your geography nor frankly your politics did not change significantly there is natural incline that those in 2030 work better for F-35. In 2008 Switzerland wanted an air policing interceptor. Why they want Seth different now I do not know.

    2. Karl Rieder

      If you want to know which mission the Swiss Air Force really has and which aircraft is most suitable for it, it is best to consult the official documents. But then you might have to revise your prejudices. 😉

      Google translates for you.

      The mission:
      “The Air Force should use its means to protect Switzerland and its population with integrated air defense, even in the event of heightened tension or in the event of an armed conflict. In this case it must be able to achieve the air superiority necessary to enable operations of its own ground forces. For this purpose, the necessary air reconnaissance and ground combat capabilities are to be built up to support the forces on the ground.”

      What is really important in Switzerland? What was tested from April to June 2019?
      “The main focus of the flight tests was on the performance of the sensors in the Swiss environment. The performance of the individual sensors as well as the sensor integration and the data connections were tested. In addition, the networking with the FLORAKO system, the flight characteristics, especially when approaching steep mountains in the mountains, and the flight performance were checked.”

      Why does the F-35 achieve best effectiveness?
      “The result of the F-35A in the area of ​​effectiveness is based on a clear technological lead over the other candidates, with which capabilities are greatly expanded or newly created in many areas.
      Based on this, the F-35A has novel, very powerful and comprehensively networked systems for protecting and monitoring the airspace. In this way, the F-35A achieves superior information and enables the pilots to be more aware of the situation in all areas of activity than with the other candidates. This also applies in particular to the daily air police service.
      In addition, only the F-35A is designed from the ground up in such a way that it is difficult for other weapon systems to detect. The resulting high survivability is a particular advantage for the Swiss Air Force.
      Ultimately, as the most modern weapon system, the F-35A can be assumed to have a technological lead well into the future. Given the planned useful life of at least 30 years, this is a major advantage over the other candidates.”

      At the end of the press release use the link “Summary report: new fighter aircraft evaluation (in German)”

      1. Mike

        The Artikel you linked is the “shortevaluation”-document published today.
        It is nothing but a sad attempt to justify the F-35.
        As the evaluation itself, NOTHING Switzerland needs was tested and/or compared!
        “look – the F35 has fancy sensors” (we have no need for in Switzerland)
        “look – the F35 has stealth” (btw – no word about SEPCTRE or PRAETORIAN, which handle modern radar far better than the aged passive stealth of the F-35)
        “look – it’s so modern” (which doesn’t mean “best suited” for Switzerland)
        “look it is so new” (with lots and lots of issues not solved – oldest bugs open since 12 years)
        “look we say it’s cheaper than the others – we checked with USAF” (no they didn’t, or they’d known about the thing being overbudget in any aspect – I WANT TO SEE THE NUMBERS THE VBS CALCULATED WITH, am pretty sure they don’t fit the GAO-report!)

        I’d love to read why they say it is BETTER than eg. the Rafale, why “slower is better” if the base-issues can’t be solved, WHY the most expensive offer shall be the least costly one.

        Also, all the competitors shouting foul and publishing their offers to proof Lockheeds foulplay. Why does the VBS still keep it a secret? Do they fear we swiss could find out the VBS cheated??

        Karl, I figured you’re either a fan of the F-35 or blindly following the lead of the VBS. But are you aware the same arguments used today could have been used back in the 1990s, when they evaluated the F-16, Mirage 2000 and F-18? Imagine the F-117 would have been for sale, too! And now apply the VBS-arguments to the fictive decission for getting the F-117 for airpolice. Would you defend the VBS decission for getting an attacker (like you do now), or would you say “wrong choice, get the F-16 or Mirage 2000 (which btw scored higher back then than the F-18, which was selected for being more secure due to having two engines; both Mirage or F-16 could still fly today, while the F-18 has severe issues – as every attacker has, that’s gonna be used as fighter. So will the F-35, too!

      2. Rav

        I do agree with some of the points. Other I am not so sure – high survivability in let say 12years time – they assume here much. My strongest doubts are however about the money. My “prejudice” towards the F-35 can be summarized in a sentence : It’s not a bad plane it’s just not as beautiful and wonderful and cheap allarouder as advertised. There is a interview with RAF Typhoon pilot which gives me a very good view on F-35 so many levels. I’m paraphrasing “ I will never want to give up speed (Typhoon) but I would not mind if the squadron next to us had those (F-35) and feed us the info”. – That’s what F-35 is: a great complicated relatively slow stealthy waeponised sensory platform. Other jobs could be done better by others. So that’s why if you want a best solution have F-22(later NGAD) and F-35 or EF(later Tempest) and F-35 but who wants to spend that much? So you won’t be able to escort a stray EF or Rafale fighter out of your borders but at least you will now that he was there and you can write a strongly formulated letter to the respective government and the liners fly only ~900km/h.

  29. Bjørnar Bolsøy


    I must say I do no quite follow your here. Are you saying that Swiss eval, when clearly stating that the F-35 was the best candidate for the requirements – including air policing – are wrong?

    1. Mike

      NO, I merley state (and explain for several days now) that the evaulation-REQUIREMENTS stated to “look for the best and most modern jet they can get for the budget”, instead of “the best SUITED jet FOR SWITZERLAND for the money”.

      Or in German:
      Sie haben den modernsten und “besten” Jet gesucht, statt den am besten zur Schweiz passenden

      Lets quote some arguments from the “shortreport” of the evaluation (a document published yesterday, essentially the poor excuse for why the F-35 has been choosen. This document alone – quoted in media – will cause the left to win the evaluation, everyone can see the flaws in the arguments:

      .) most modern sensors.
      TRUE, the F-35 has the best sensor-package; yet how can Switzerland make use of them? Our current “sensors” must be reduced in range otherwhise Germany and Italy start barking; with Austria we have an agreement, France is a little more understanding.
      …how to use the sensors for the range over Switzerland?

      .) networking-capabilities.
      TRUE, the networking of the F35 is outstanding, YET all candidates can make use of the integrated systems Switzerland HAS, and as we have no AWACS or similar, where shell the F-35 get the data from – nope, “other F-35 in the air” isn’t an option *
      They especially mention collaboration with Nato – but AWACS-access isn’t part of the Nato-PfP, and similarly to austria (who’s NOT evaluating the F-35 **) the full membership isn’t an option due to the neutrality

      .) Stealth.
      TRUE, the F-35 having passive-stealth. …but they didn’t mention SPECTRE or PRAETORIAN of Typhoon/Rafale who – similarly to the Gripen-E (!) – deal with MODERN radar-systems far better than the outdated passive-stealth of the F-35.
      ALSO why would we need passive stealth for in Switzerland? Who shall we attack with 36 planes?!

      .) less costs-per-unit
      After reading the GAO-report i want to see the numbers the VBS is using. IMHO this is a blatant fraud. Boeing and Airbus shouting “foul” publishing their offers, the unit-prices for both Typhoon and F-18 are lower than the Lockheed-offers.
      .) less operating costs.
      …see costs-per-unit.
      It is obvious the F-35 being the most expensive in the raly. It’s not like the Brits halfing their F-35A order due to the fu..ker being to expensive to fly!
      .) less costs during its lifetime
      …see costs-per-unit. As this is a mix between unit- and operational price, “two wrongs don’t make one right”.
      …especially considering all other customers of the F-35 reducing their orders or seeking a fast replacement (guess why Tempest was acceleratred!

      …and THESE have been the big advantages the F-35 delivers.
      Reading them with the Question “how can Switzerland make use of this”, you immediatly ask yourself “why didn’t the Rafale win” (marginally more expensive due to the bigger weapons-package, YET with meteor one’d be futureproofen, the networking of the Rafale is as impressive and more usable for Switzerland, the speed and shorter runway-needs of it are better for Switzerland (think alternative strips used for training: you have 3 bases for the F-35), and after all:
      participating in one of the european Gen6-projects for the replacement “2060” (which could be made earlier, too -> 36 jets. If a few of them crash, they can think of replacing the whole fleet already!) would be better for both economy, airforce AND politics. (and the budget’d profit, too – sorry, the F-35 is the most expensive during operations!!)

      ** .) simulator allowes more training missions there, resulting in less flying activity
      …as for the simulator, I’d say the Rafale’s more suffisticated with the option of interconnecting them and do squadron-trianings in the simulator.
      Also, the argument “resulting in less flight hours needed” – sorry, maybe i’m oldfashioned here, but i think a jet is bought so it can fly. …in Switzerland, the F-35 gonna be a Hangarqueen not for maintenance, but it being bought to stay in the hangar…

      ** because the austrians realised: they can’t make use of the F-35 for not having AWACS, not going to attack and having to few bases to do intercepts over austria with the F-35. They need faster, more agile and lest costly.

      1. Mike

        “will cause the left to win the initiative” (not the evaluation)
        (too bad there’s no edit-function in these comments, and nope, _I_ am most defenetly not a F35, this error slipped by my sensors 😉

      2. Bjørnar Bolsøy


        I’m still not sure I see your points. Surely, the quality of sensors, fusion etc. are not limited to long ranges? If that was the case, surely every modern fighter fails your Swiss requirements?

        I also don’t see your argument about stealth. Again, surely, camouflage, in its many forms, is vital to any military operation, be it land, sea or in the air. Short or long range, offensive or defensive.

        As to costs, I don’t think one can ignore that so many nations have concluded that the F-35, in a life cycle perspective, is the most cost-effective option compared to the other fighters: Danes, Belgians, Norwegians, Dutch, Poles, Swiss etc. Perhaps there is more to LCC than simply cost per flight hours?

      3. Mike

        I’m not sure you WANT to understand what I write. Which language shall I translate my posts to so you might understand? Is there a common foreign language you understand better?

        Quality of sensors: what do you get if you combine the “less flying due to simulator” and “great sensors”? can Switzerland make use of the sensors? (answer: NOPE – only good when flying, and the groundsensors are covering the country already.) The only way to make use of the F-35 sensors is to max the range out. Which is forbidden. And if they don’t intend to fly the thing (!!!! read the press release of the VBS!), what good do the sensors do anyway?
        To check the borders, we have UAV (israeli Hermes – if they get deliverd), that’s not a job for fighter-jets! Also we have ground-troops with sensors if something’s going on; we don’t need to fly for that!
        You took the wrong conclusions: instead of saying “ok every candidate has as a good set of sensors as the other FOR SWISS USE”, you say “all fail”.

        Stealth: 99% of the task is air police. You WANT to be seen! Switzerland doesn’t fly first strikes, therefore there is absolutly not one single scenario Switzerland needs stealth for! As said: the airbases are known, everyone with Brain inside their heads now which two bases the F-35 can use, …what shall we hide for? Everyone know where they are already! Also IF (big if) there’s a need for attacking advancing ground-troops: they are on swiss territory and the war is open, they expect attacks, and as Switzerland consists mainly of valleys, you don’t need stealth to be not detected with radar! (check the geografy, as I told you so many times!)

        As to the costs: GAO-report, also the aviation-news article, both linked by @Ferpe. Check the newest reports that the USAF seeks a replacement for the engine, as the current one is prone to failures, expensive to maintain, and simply not available enough. This screams of the thing being more expensive than Lockheed says!

        ALSO: it is well known the costs per flight-hour of the F-35 are OVER 35’000USD. Price per aircraft in Switzerland 110mil CHF. If you don’t see the cost-argument, then please explain LOGICALLY how a 110mil-fighter is cheaper than a 90mil-fighter (Rafale-per-piece), which has a cost per flight-hour of 20’000USD?

        And yes – it’s the cheapest offer; it’s also the only one that does not include groundsystems and ammendmends to the infrastructure (especially the F-35 needing a whole new set of that), transport-costs to the maintenance-facility are not included – think of certified maintenance facility, nearest one to Switzerland: Italy – how to bring a “not ready to fly” jet there? Think “transport is costly”! Btw maintenance: these external maintenance facilitys were also not included in the operational costs! Lockheed, as usual, cut the corners of the offers!
        …so there will be, as in Denmark, Norway, SPAIN and the Netherlands, a massive “more expensive than thought”-case.

        If you still don’t get the drift:
        imagine following situation:
        back in 1992, swiss air force seeked a new fighterjet to replace the ageing Mirage 3C (C for Chasseur = fighter).
        Candidates: Mirage 2000, F-16D, F/A-18C (“upgraded” to F without A).
        Evaluation showed: the F-16D being the best choice for Switzerland, Federal Counsil decided “F-18 more secure due to two engines” – not kidding! that was the argument for the A-18.
        …well, now imagine the evaluation included the F-117.
        Back in 1992, it had the best sensor-pack, stealth, and was the most modern jet in the evaluation.
        Same requirement as today: what would you have choosen for Switzerlands usage (99% air police!)? And why not the F-117?

        Fast foward to 2021: knowing the F-35 will be the death of the airforce, all the supermodern sensors essentially useless for the usecase, stealth unneeded and comes with the costs of bad aerodynamics, maintenance not included in the operational cost-calculation, …

        …would you still chose the ONE candidated with the least benefits but poses the biggest danger for Switzerland? Or would you chose a fighterjet for the tasks at hand?

        (add the operational blindness of swiss army higher upps! They still think in classic standoffs, that there’s a 10 years warning-time before war aso; they must be repalced together with the F-5! Bc their thinking comes from the same aera! With 36 jets, no matter which one, you don’t think “WAR”, you think “operations during peace-times” => air police)

  30. Jake

    @Bjørnar Bolsøy:

    You said, “If anything, the DOT&E reports illustrates the challenges and intricacies that face any fighter program. It would be very interesting to read comparable reports for other fighters”

    -You should find with google a PDF called: “COMPENDIUM OF DOT&E ANNUAL REPORTS:
    F-22A RAPTOR AIR DOMINANCE FIGHTER PROGRAM”. I took the name out of the document with cut-and-paste, that is why it is in all caps.

    Right at the beginning there is a rather telling graph. The page counts of three different DOT@E reports are plotted over the years. The programs in question are F-35, LCS and F-22.

    F-22 reports are diminutive in comparison to the two others. LCS reports begin to get much thicker towards the later years. F-35 reports begin to get thicker around 2010 and then turn obese even when compared to LCS.

    This signifies one thing. F-35 is a markedly more complex project and aircraft than any other fighter out there. Bear in mind that these reports also include the B and C versions, which are not relevant to Nordic countries. But the B model is relevant to UK, since it is the only one they operate, and UK is Northern Europe.

  31. asafasfaf

    It is expected that 0,1 million signatures are collected in a matter of months, but when will the vote take place? I read somewhere that it would be delayed to 2023 in order to cause maximum damage to Swiss air force? (less time to pick a European fighter)

    I also read that parliament would start to process this(F-35) selection in 2022?

    1. Mike

      Swiss parliament is currently in summer-vaccation, but will say yes or no to the decission for the 2022-army-budget this automn. SADLY, most partys here agree with “they evaluated the best jet” (no one seeing they didn’t evaluate the best suited jet), so the initiative can be started only after that decission; an initiative has one year (12 months) to collect the signatures. making a vote about it possible in as you said earliest in 2023. Causing at least a two-year-gap in aircover already.*

      YET the federal counsil actually could proceed with the purchase until the initiative is there, but all the money’d be lost if they win (what they will, many people seeing that the F-35 is the wrong choice **)

      * Skynews .ch, in its august issue, said “the first time, there was a decission made on the evaluation, not the politics”. Which is actually right, BUT:
      – after the evaluation was phrased wrong (“best jet” instead “best suited jet” – BIG difference!)
      – and the resistance against the one particular jet in the rally was big from the start of the evaluation already,
      it should have been a political decission this time:

      Number 2, the Rafale, is a GREAT fighter, and better suited for swiss needs (as I’ve written in one of my comments: all the things the F-35 is actually better, can’t be used in Switzerland!), and would have caused NOT ONE SINGLE RESISTANCE against the decission.

      Instead they want to defend the decission now; knowing that the FACTS (GAO-Report, experience of other european customers (eg Netherlands), USAF and UK) speak AGAINST the F-35.

      Easiest solution ensuring an aircover would actually be the parliament rejecting the decission for the F-35, demanding the number 2 (Rafale) being chosen; that could be done within ONE WEEK (except Dassault retracting their offer already, but then: the Typhoon-offer shall remain open for good – Airbus knowing: if we have to go with the F-35, we gonna need a fast replacement soon **)

      So the only hope is that enough people like me will do everything needed to persue the partys to fix the decission – it’s not so much about “which fighter will be the aircover for Switzerland the next 30 years”, it’s more about WILL Switzerland HAVE an aircover the next 30 years. (= that’s why a political decission is needed.

      OR: “what good does the decission for the “best jet avaiable” do, if this will cause the end of the airforce by preventing the purchase of ANY new jet”.
      (swiss F-35-fans who also read here: pls think about the last sentence!! With the referendum-result, it is delousional to think about the initiative NOT to win!!)

      ** especially now, that the USAF annoucned to look for an engine-replacement as that shall be the most acheing part (some 40% of jets deliverd without engine?? the aviation geek club reported on that yesterday), and the problems get MORE instead LESS… How many “big nono’s” does one need to decide AGAINST the F-35?

    2. Karl Rieder

      The committee against the F-35 will probably launch their initiative in August 2021. They have 18 months to collect at least 100,000 signatures. It is unclear when the vote will take place.

      The parliament will debate the F-35 with the armaments program in 2022, presumably in June and September 2022 (two chambers of parliament). The parliament would also have to debate the initiative against it and come up with a recommendation for the popular vote. If the initiative comes about quickly, it could be debated in parliament along with the armaments program. Hence, a first voting date could be in March 2023. But that depends on how long it takes to collect signatures. Maybe we won’t vote until 2024.

  32. Paul

    F-35 is 36 airframes plus 36 engines, while every competitor has double the amount of engines = much more expensive. F-35 has got most advanced simulators = much cheaper. F-35 is produced in large numbers = cheaper. Best choice for Switzerland would have been Gripen E, which was operational just a few month after the Swiss evaluation flights.

    1. asafasfaf

      F-35’s engines are not very cheap, in fact they are so costly to buy and maintain that USAF wants another engine maker to lower the cost by competition.

      1. Paul

        Two F414 are not cheaper than one F135 (at least the version used in F-35A). Don’t forget – when using twin-engined jets you not only need to buy but maintain double the amount of engines, which means you need more personnel and/or man hours. That’s probably the main reason F-35 are less expensive than all the other jets, which feature twin engines.

    2. Karl Rieder

      IMHO, the Gripen E would not be the best choice for Switzerland. I don’t think it offers the same performance of sensors as the F-35 and it is behind in data fusion and data links. (Although some Saab commentators believe the Gripen E is equal or even better than the F-35.)

      In Switzerland, the air policing configuration was planned with 3 external tanks (information for the referendum in 2014). Rather heavy for this lightweight fighter jet, and not advantageous.

      However, the operating costs would be the lowest.

      1. Paul

        Switzerland is a rather small area so sensors and endurance isn’t that big of an issue, especially since sensors are often times blocked by mountains anyway. Most “airpolicing” and QRA is done via GCI (ground-controlled interception) anyway, fighter jets are just the active part of it. And since Gripen are supposedly cheaper you can operate more or at least have more in reserve, which also means the individual machine collects less flying hours and lasts longer.

    3. Karl Rieder

      “Switzerland is a rather small area so sensors and endurance isn’t that big of an issue …”
      It was all about sensors, fusion of data and data links. If you read the official statements, you would know. And endurance is important, as aircraft have to be escorted to an airport. It’s also an official statement, btw.

      1. Paul

        As I said: Gripen E would have been more than good enough. Also: How are these requirements assembled? Often the military has their preferences and since they are the “experts”, they get to set the “official” requirements, which they do in such way it favors their preferred candidate. In this case the F-35 was the preferred candidate of the Swiss military, which is not surprising since it’s the most modern jet.

  33. Alex

    To add to the ‘cognitive dissonance’ overvsupport costs and cooling and power margins:

    “Lieutenant General Eric Fick… told a House panel on 13 July that the Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 turbofan’s costs and sustainment are challenging. The Pentagon, he said, will start to bear those costs… as the programme approaches the 2,000 hour first scheduled engine removal.”


    The F35 “…will probably need increased power and thermal management capability from the F-35’s propulsion system after Block 4”

    All turbofans are expensive to maintain. Given the USAF is certainly the most experienced in the world at maintaining fighter tubofans, this means that these are extemely expensive engines. Also engine upgrades to follow the platform upgrade path sounds pricey.

  34. Ferpe

    We have one more data point re. running costs, this time from the horse’s mouth. From 13th July Aviation Week:

    Darko Savic, head of New Fighter Aircraft at Armasuisse says there is binding information that equates the cost per flight hour to 55,0000 to 60,000 Swiss francs ( $60,000-$65,000).

    It seems the Swiss have no problem with money.

    1. Mike

      Oh we have – budget for VBS (military, civil defense and prof. sports) is 4,7mrd (planned after the purchase)… But we have also an issue with corru…….ehem not so “number-savvy but influentual” politicians

      You don’t happen to have a pdf of that article?

      Btw – Andre Blattmann said in Swiss TV that the total lifetime-costs of the F-35 in Switzerland would be 23 milliard swiss francs. Why is Blattmann important? He was Chief of Army (equivalent of 5star-general). HE KNOWS.

  35. Mike

    The text for the initiative of the left is out (source:

    Art. 197 Ziff. 13 (neu)
    13. Übergangsbestimmungen zu Art. 60 (Organisation, Ausbildung und Ausrüstung der
    1 Der Bund beschafft keine Kampfflugzeuge des Typs F-35 Lightning II des Herstellers
    Lockheed Martin Corporation
    2 Das Armeebudget wird entsprechend angepasst.
    3 Diese Bestimmung tritt am 01. Januar 2040 ausser Kraft.

    Info: Art. 197 is an “adaptable” article, for tranistional provisions.

    Text translated.

    13. transitional provisions for Art. 60 (organisation, training and supply of the armed forces)
    1. the “Bund” (short Bundesstaat = the country, aka Switzerland) does not purchase fighterjets of the Type F-35 Lightning II from the manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corporation.
    2. the budget of the army will be ammended to it.
    3. this provisions ends on January 1st 2040.

    ….the GOOD part: they found a way to keep it specific to the F-35.
    …the BAD part: they adjust the budget of the army, which – as I feared and described in countless comments – will prevent buying of new jets AT ALL. …even if the federal counsil would ammend the decission to buy Rafale (or emergency-evaluate the Gripen-E), the budget to buy new fighterjets would be voided if the initiative is won.

    Personally, I’m in a bind.
    Everything I feared about this decission became true – and/or finally gets seen.
    The F-35 is a big danger for Switzerland – if it would fly with swiss insignia, or if it ends the swiss air force. It mustn’t be purchased. YET the one way we gonna have if the parliament doesn’t reject the decission, wouuld end the air force.

    This is an impossible decission to make. Only way to resolve it: the parliament refuses the F-35, requesting a decission for the 2nd of the evaluation (Rafale).

    1. Znail

      I wonder if they grasp for too much in linking in the budget? It would be so much easier to just get the pick of F-35 invalidated, perhaps invalidate the entire purchase program making a new one require new mandate. Is there noway to get planes ever if this passes?

      1. Mike

        Well it is the “Group Switzerland without Army” and the SP (social party switzerland). Their goal is to get rid of the airforce…

        That is what I ment with “the danger of the initiative”.

        With Article 197 they found the PERFECT way to prevent this bad decission, the phrasing of paragraph 1 is perfect, paragraph 3 is needed (bc in 2040, the F-35 is outdated), but there’s always a caviat with their initiatives. Issue now is gonna be: people not reading or understanding paragraph 2.

        The F-35 (rightfully so) has lots of resistance in Switzerland; as i mentioned in an earlier comment: that was the only reason for the referendum in sept 2020 in the first place – NOW, the federal counsil will lose all the yes-votes from people like me who actually know about the topic, know about how bad the choice is for swiss needs (…if 99% of the tasks have to do with intercepts, you select a freakin’ interceptor, especially after making 25 years worth of experience of how bad an attacker does with intercepts, EVEN if the attacker was partially build to do dogfights (F-18C – whichs only difference is a software-upgrade that deletes all the bombthrowing-algorithms out of the onbord-computer)…

        They could actually have an easy win – IF they delete paragraph 2 from the initiative before they start collecting signatures! But …that’s not what they want. They WANT to reduce the budget to harm the army.

        And without the budget, as written, no more purchase of a fighterjet; the budget, which would have come out of the NORMAL army-budget (4,7mrd francs) are no longer possible, otherwhise the rest of the army no longer functioning! The “Grenzwachcorps” (border control) is financed by army, as are aid-missions with helicopters (at the moment: flood control for the creeks and rivers!!), the FLIR-missions (both UAV and cougar-based) for searching missing people, and much more! – all financed by these 4,7mrd francs. And trust me: I recently had to witness rookies in their basic using the same old material I had to use in my basic 21 years ago – and even then I refused to do so as the material was unsafe to use already!

        …as said: that’s the left. Always picking up every chance to harm the armed forces…
        (and with the Gripen: …then complain about armed forces unable to do their job!)

        (though there are ways to finance the purchase outside the normal budget, but THAT gonna be fought as well, by the same groups)

      2. Mike

        Btw other ways to finance it:
        1. obviously the federal counsil asking the parliament for the credit.
        (the old fashioned way: evaluation about “what they need, which jet to buy, how many jets, that’s gonna be the costs”
        …can be fought with a referendum (50’000 signatures to be collected) and with the biased media (swiss national TV very “close” to SP, openly left leaning): no chance to win.
        2. allocating army-funds to the project within the reduced budget.
        (patchwork-solutions; getting rid of replacing other material prioritising the jets; needs approval within the parliament (normal budget-debates).
        …can possibly be fought with a referendum, but if the left gathers enough support there’s just no budget-agreement == no deal.
        3. there’s another initiative, getting rid of the paragraph2 there.
        (needs to have signatures to be collected, an argument-war in media to be won, aso)
        4. going high-risk: a change of law creating an ammendment to the constitution;
        obligatory referendum, no signatures, BUT a vote. …if these are lost, this option usually are off the table for a very long time.

        You see – if the initiative is won: no more fighterjets. The “Austrian trap”. Maybe it will be possible to rent old jets (eg the Rafale F3 or Typhoon Tranche3) until a solution to buy jets can be found (like the Austrians did with the F5 until they got their emergency-purchase done)

        As written before: best thing that could happen: parlament waking up, rejecting the choice due to the (political) danger it poses, asking for a eurodelta.
        (highly unlikely, many F-35fanboys there, too, not seeing the real needs)

      3. Karl Rieder

        The “initiative” hasn’t officially been launched yet. The text is a draft. It can be changed.
        Expect the launch in mid August, after the summer holidays. I’ve written this before, an “initiative” is a change of the constitution and needs the majority of the voters and the majority of the cantons. It is very difficult to win an “initiative”.
        The “group for a Switzerland without an army”, that is launching this “initiative”, doesn’t want fighter jets at all. The Greens don’t want fighter jets. The Socialists first proposed 12 Leonardo jet trainers, and recently 12 Gripen C – yes C not E!

      4. Mike

        Both true, BUT did they ever change their drafted initiative-texts before?
        Especially the points THEY WANT?

        As you stated correctly: first they wanted a leonardo-trainer; same maneuver as in 2013 with the Gripen-vote: little known, financing the Gripen would have brought additional finances for 24/7 air police (incl. radar). Shortly after that, the Ethiopian-Airline incident happened. Not seen by the starved swiss military radar, so the French took over. …the SP used that incident to blame the army, saying “they can’t do the job anyway, time to get rid of it” (paraphrased).

        Then they came with a SANE argument: getting the Gripen-C instead the F-35.
        a) the -C could have ensured the airpolice, BUT opened a way to get Tempest/FCAS in 2040, when the -C would have to stop flying.
        b) if Amherd would do a good job as CVP (christian people party) states, she’d recognised “ok there’s gonna be resistance AGAIN against the F-35, maybe I should make a decission for a canidate that gets less resistance, and not blindly follow the operational blinded folks over at Armasuisse” (and maybe she would have taken another look into Claude Nicholliers expert-report, recommending getting INTERCEPTORS, and not fighters with “mixed purposes” (no F/A, by the old name-scheme))

        Apply some tactical thinking here and you’ll see why they will NEVER change the text of the initiative: both SP and GSoA don’t want ANY jet to fly in Switzerland, that’s why paragraph 2 is in the text! Budget-cuts. Preventing ANY new purchases.

        …this is why a political decission against the F-35 is so important! Not many people want to see WHY SP and GSoA fights, they just see the obvious wrong choice for Switzerland that must be prevented. The initiative gets won. …and Amherd has no plan B. Delays. No air cover NOW, that the new cold war-clock stands at 11:59:40!!!
        (we need a new “air cover” now, not in 2030)

        That’s why the parliament MUST reject the decission. If it comes to the initiative – well… GSoA will win.

  36. Bjørnar Bolsøy

    Tom wrote:
    I don´t think you know what you are talking about. Saab is on eth forefront when it comes to AESA-radars. Even the US bougth GalliumNitride semiconductors from Saab/Sweden as late as 2018.”

    Sure SAAB is in the forefront of AESA technology, but still lags well behind the US in the fighter AESA game who have fielded AESAs for 20 years. Consider that the first operational GaN fighter AESA is the current US Navy F/A-18 upgrades.

    1. Karl Rieder

      The Gripen E will get the Leonardo Selex “Raven ES-05 radar”. It’s not a Saab radar.

  37. I will now close this post for further comments, as frankly with 150+ comments I see very little new information being added to the topic in the last few rounds of comments made. I believe most commentators have had the opportunity to explain their opinions at length already, and by now the discussion is largely made up of reiterating what was said a few weeks ago.

Comments are closed.