Federal Council Postpones the Partial Replacement of the Tiger Fleet
(Source: Swiss Ministry of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport; issued Aug. 25, 2010)
(Issued in French; unofficial translation by defense-aerospace.com)
The Swiss Cabinet’s decision to put off the replacement of its F-5E Tiger fighters by at least 5 years after having insisted it was urgently needed, has sparked a political row. (Swiss MoD photo)
BERN --- At its meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Council confirmed the decision in principle for the acquisition of fighter aircraft to replace the obsolete F-5 Tigers (TTE, or Tiger Partial Replacement, program).
However, because of the current state of federal finances, and of general national priorities, it postponed the timing of the acquisition to no later than 2015.
The Federal Council approved the proposal of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) to postpone the replacement of 54 obsolete F-5 Tiger combat aircraft of the Air Force. The head of the DDPS, Ueli Maurer, told a news conference that the postponement will last at most until 2015. Together, the Federal Department of Finance and the DDPS will ensure that, by the end of 2011, conditions will allow the acquisition to proceed during the second half of the decade.
The three candidate aircraft, the Eurofighter (EADS - Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain), Gripen (Saab - Sweden) and Rafale (Dassault - France) have been fully assessed in 2008. During the assessment, it appeared that the budget would not be sufficient.
The Federal Council has taken this decision for the following reasons: it is not possible to obtain additional funding because of the financial situation of the Confederacy and, on the other hand, available resources should be used to fill other gaps in military capabilities.
Today’s decision does not compromise security of Swiss air space. The 33 F/A-18 Hornet fighters are currently sufficient to meet air policing missions. The postponement of the TTE program, however, will have implications for the air force’s ability to conduct extended air policing and air defense missions. In addition, it will not be possible to recover key skills in the fields of aerial reconnaissance and air-to-ground operations.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: As the cost of buying 22 new fighters to replace half of the fleet of F-5 E/F Tigers increased from an initial 2.2 billion Swiss francs to 5 billion (including infrastructure and related equipment), Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer tried to obtain additional funding from Parliament. This was refused, notably because additional cash was needed to fix other troubled military programs (command & control network, logistics, training, etc.) which finally led to the Aug. 25 announcement that defense procurement chief Jacob Baumann will leave his post next June.
Swiss authorities must now decide whether to continue with the partial replacement of the Tiger fleet, or to combine this program with the procurement of a successor to the F/A-18 Hornet, the last of which was delivered in 1999.
Switzerland has spent 4 million francs to finance the in-flight evaluation of the three competing aircraft.) (ends)
Swiss Press Calls for Clear Army Strategy
(Source: SwissInfo; published Aug. 26, 2010)
The government and Defence Minister Ueli Maurer in particular are the target of much criticism in Thursday’s Swiss newspapers over the issue of new fighter planes.
It follows a government decision delaying the partial replacement of the army’s ageing Tiger jets for financial reasons until 2015 at the latest. Buying 22 new planes would have cost up to SFr4.8 billion ($4.6 billion).
The Berner Zeitung sums up its feelings under the headline “Sad army debacle”. It comments that by giving itself up to five years to make a decision on the issue is “typical for the way in which the government deals with the army”.
“There is no clear strategy…you tend to think there is a certain lack of interest by the government. That is unacceptable.”
It also notes that at a time when there are failings in the army over equipment, IT and “chaos” in army logistics, there should be some order on the ground before buying high-tech products for the air.
The Geneva newspaper Le Temps pulls no punches, calling Maurer the “minister of insecurity”.Up till now, it comments that Maurer has come up with no thoughts on his concept of security and no definition of what the army’s mission is.
“No one knows what the army is good for. Yesterday we had to replace the Tigers at all costs. Today the 33 F/A-18 (Hornets) are enough.”
The editorial in the Bund newspaper of Bern and Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger says Maurer and his colleagues are afraid of calling a spade a spade.
A realistic assessment of a threat against Switzerland knocks not only the wishes of the air force on the head.
“It must also lead to a much smaller army with far fewer soldiers doing refresher courses. But conservative-minded people feel this is a threat to Switzerland’s militia system and therefore a loss of identity.”
More defence cooperation
The papers calls for more defence cooperation with Switzerland’s neighbours and feels that any new planes must also fit into their security concept.
The Basler Zeitung is much kinder in its assessment of the situation, saying the government’s decision was correct from both the political and security points of view.
“There is no military enemy in sight for years…to fulfil its role as a policeman of the air, the air force has enough [planes] with its 54 Tigers and 22 F/A-18s.
“However, the future position of the air force should be clarified as soon as possible.”
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung says the government’s decision stands out in stark contrast to remarks made in a recent security policy report.
It asks whether the defence ministry and the government looked seriously at all the possibilities of financing the planes.
The 24 Heures newspaper makes the point that the Swiss are prepared to serve [their country] but differently. “They ask for only one thing: that there is a sense in what they are doing.”
Are their losers and winners after Wednesday’s decision? Apart from picking out Maurer as a loser, the Neue Luzerner Zeitung mentions the three companies that had been candidates to supply the planes.
It said France’s Dassault, the EADS consortium and Sweden’s Saab had spent millions in trying to secure the contract.
The paper counts the Group for a Switzerland without an Army as a winner. It made the point that the pacifist group had achieved the goal of its people’s initiative calling for no new fighter planes before 2020 without even a voting campaign. (ends)
Replacement of Swiss Fighter Jets Postponed
(Source: SwissInfo; published Aug. 25, 2010)
The Swiss government has delayed the partial replacement of the army’s Tiger fighter jets for financial reasons, the Federal Chancellery announced on Wednesday.
The government confirmed it planned to replace 54 “obsolete” planes but has postponed the purchase until 2015 at the latest, on the recommendation of Defence Minister Ueli Maurer. Some jets in the Tiger fleet are over 30 years old.
Buying 22 new planes would have cost up to SFr4.8 billion ($4.6 billion). In a statement, the government said it could not use supplementary credits under the current budget constraints to buy the replacements, and existing resources had to be used to cover other army costs.
The defence and finance ministries will decide by the end of 2011 how much can be spent on replacements and when.
The decision stirred up various reactions. The Swiss People’s Party said it was regrettable but understandable. The Social Democrats were pleased, saying it would have been wrong to spend the money when other budget cuts were being made elsewhere.
The Group for Switzerland without an Army commented that the outcome showed the planes were not urgently needed.