BERN --- Switzerland needs surveillance, protection and defense of its airspace, new combat aircraft and a new ground-to-air defense system: This is the conclusion reached by the two groups tasked by the DDPS chief to examine and evaluate the acquisition of new combat aircraft.
The report of the expert group, which provides a general overview of the issue of airspace protection, stresses the need for interaction between surface-to-air defense and combat aircraft in order to accomplish this mission. The support group, for its part, formulated a total of sixteen recommendations for the head of the DDPS.
In the 2020s, the air defense capabilities of the Swiss armed forces (fighter aircraft, ground-based air defense) will reach the end of their useful life. In the spring of 2016, the head of the DDPS commissioned a group of experts within the DDPS to elaborate the necessary foundations for their replacement by adopting a global vision. These are now summarized in a report that considers all aspects, and reflects the opinions of these experts. The leader of the DDPS will be able to refer to the department's position on the issue. It should be noted, however, that the conclusions of the expert report cannot be regarded as the official position of the DDPS regarding the acquisition of combat aircraft.
The first part of the report consists of an analysis of current trends in the conduct of air warfare and the evolution of modern air defenses. The second part details and explains the tasks of the Swiss Air Force: the need to have air defense capabilities (combat aircraft and surface-to-air defense) to ensure a comprehensive protection of airspace in times of tension. The need to provide effective end-effects from the start of hostilities in the event of armed conflict is highlighted.
Starting from the level of benefits targeted by the Air Force as early as 2025, and in accordance with the Federal Council's long-term airspace concept (report in response to the Galladé 12.4130 postulate) of 27 August 2014, the expert panel’s report sets out in detail four options, each based on a varying degree of development of airspace protection systems, and outlines its advantages and disadvantages.
The report presents options for the acquisition of 30 or 40 aircraft or even 55 aircraft and even more, as well as an option that would consider, in addition to acquiring 20 new combat aircraft, provisional maintenance of the F / A fleet (30 aircraft) until its replacement in the 2030s.
The group of experts concluded that the process of modernization of existing air defense assets must begin urgently. To this end, the evaluation of a new combat aircraft should begin shortly, with the objective of being able to choose the type of aircraft in 2020 and request the granting of the acquisition funds as part of the Army 2022 budget. The valuation procedure is described in detail in the report, as well as the possible industry participation during the acquisition and, subsequently, the operation phases.
The report sheds light on the issue of airspace protection mission and also shows the role of the interaction between surface-to-air defense and combat aircraft to carry out this mission.
The four options presented provide for a long-range ground-to-air defense system that can cover an area either the size of the Swiss Plateau or of the entire national territory, depending on the number of aircraft acquired.
After the suspension of the DSA 2020 project in March 2016, it is a matter of restarting the evaluation by modifying its concept and resuming work as quickly as possible, based on the reference values described in the report. The objective is to be able to offer the necessary credit for the acquisition at the latest in a defense budget during the early 2020s.
External Support Group: Statement of Sixteen Recommendations
The group of internal experts was accompanied by a group outside the department, consisting of one representative from each of the four government parties, as well as representatives from the DDPS, other departments, industry and the Swiss Officers' Society.
This group’s mission was to evaluate and acquire a new combat aircraft at an early stage of the project, taking into account all aspects, including possible interactions with surface-to-air defense, to discuss and to contribute to the comprehensive and transparent preparation of such a procurement project.
The support group made sixteen recommendations to the DDPS leader, and will serve as a basis for decision-making. Some deal with the following issues: the need for new combat aircraft, the capabilities they should possess, the financing of such an acquisition, the organization of a popular vote, and whether or not to take into account Russian or Chinese combat aircraft. The support group also spoke about the variants presented in the panel's report, the number of aircraft that should be purchased, and the planned interactions with ground-to-air defense.
Further information (in French)
Future of Air Defense:
-- Rapport du Groupe d’experts Prochain Avion de Combat (202 PDF pages)
-- Recommandations du groupe d’accompagnement sur l’évaluation et l’acquisition d’un nouvel avion de combat (8 PDF pages)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The expert panel’s recommendations are:
-- Option 1: Replacement of present fighter inventory by 55 (possibly up to 70) new combat aircraft, replacement of current air-defense network with new system offering improved performance.
Estimated cost: 15 to 18 billion Swiss francs.
-- Option 2: Acquisition of 40 new combat aircraft and procurement of a new air-defense network.
Estimated cost: 9 billion Swiss francs.
-- Option 3: Acquisition of about 30 new fighters and service life extension of F-18 Hornet fighters until 2030, and significant improvement of the performance of the air-defense network.
Estimated cost: 8 to 8.5 billion Swiss francs.
-- Option 4: Acquisition of only 20 new fighters, service life extension of the F-18s and renewal of the current air-defense network.
Estimated cost: 5 billion Swiss francs.
The majority of the Expert Panel members (6) voted in favor of Option 3. Options 1 and 2 won two votes each, while as single panel member voted for Option 4.
The members of the Support Panel representing the main political parties voted for Option 3 (3 votes) with a single vote for Option 1.)