BERN --- The implementation of measures to extend the life of the fighter jets is delayed due to technical problems. This currently reduces the availability of aircraft in the F / A-18 fleet of the Swiss Air Force. However, security of the airspace is guaranteed at all times. The head of VBS has informed the security commissions of the parliament.
Following the “no” vote of the voters on the purchase of the Gripen fighter jet in 2014, Parliament approved a service life extension of the F / A-18 fleet from 5,000 to 6,000 flight hours for each aircraft. This is to close the emerging capability gap in the air by 2030. Part of this program is the rehabilitation of the structure of the approximately 20-year-old aircraft.
RUAG was able to upgrade a first aircraft as a prototype in the summer of 2018 within four months. For the next five aircraft, however, this work will take much longer than expected. This is due to previously unknown and only partially resolved problems from the production period at the end of the 90s.
For example, for some replacement parts, the holes for attachment are not identical to the existing structure. Structural redevelopment delayed by an indefinite period will also affect the rest of the F / A-18 fleet, as the delays at RUAG will block capacity for regular standard maintenance work.
As a consequence, the Swiss Air Force has fewer aircraft available for its air police service. Currently, it is 10 aircraft of the total of 30 F / A-18 in service, instead of 12 as targeted.
Limitations must be expected until the completion of the restructuring program in 2024. However, the ready-to-fly F / A-18s are enough to ensure the air police service and the conference protection operations at all times.
The Air Force and RUAG are doing everything they can to maintain their readiness. Work is currently underway to provide additional resources at RUAG and Luftwaffe.