Air2030: Flight and Ground Tests Begin for A New Fighter Jet (NKF) in Payerne
(Source: Swiss Dept. of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports; issued April 08, 2019)
(Unofficial translation by
BERN --- At a press conference in Bern, Ministry of Defence specialists reported on the flight and ground tests for a new fighter jet. The press conference marks the start of the trials, which begin this week in Payerne. The trials of the five candidate airplanes will take place until the end of June 2019.

At the press conference on 8 April 2019, various specialists from the Ministry of Defence provided information on the in-flight and ground tests that are about to take place in Payerne. The delegate of the head of the DDPS for the renewal of the means of protection of the airspace, Christian Catrina, briefly presented the NKF (New Combat Aircraft) project, followed by the NKF project manager at armasuisse, Darko Savic.

Then the heads of the NKF sub-project tests, Bernhard Berset from armasuisse and Cédric Aufranc, from the Air Force staff, described the evaluation process and the scope of the tests. Finally, Colonel Peter Merz, the Air Force’s NKF deputy project head, explained the Air Force’s mission and its need for a new fighter jet.

Test program

The tests include eight missions with specific tasks. Each mission is carried out with one or two fighter planes. The purpose of the missions is to check the capabilities of the aircraft as well as the data received. A flight will take place at night, but will end in any case before midnight. An introductory flight will take place before the flight and ground tests to allow foreign pilots to familiarize themselves with Swiss airspace. No test flight will take place on holidays or weekends.

The candidates will be tested in alphabetical order, according to the name of the builders:
-- Airbus, Germany, Eurofighter: Weeks 15 and 16
-- Boeing, USA, F / A-18 Super Hornet: Weeks 17 and 18
-- Dassault, France, Rafale: Weeks 20 and 21
-- Lockheed Martin, USA, F-35A: Weeks 23 and 24
-- Saab, Sweden, Gripen E: Weeks 25 and 26

Night flights are scheduled as follows (the reserve day is indicated in parentheses):
-- Monday, 15/04/2019 (16/04/2019)
-- Monday, 29/04/2019 (30/04/2019)
-- Monday, 20/05/2019 (21/05/2019)
-- Thursday, 06/06/2019 (06/11/2019)
-- Wednesday, 26/06/2019 (27/06/2019)

Press events in Payerne

The representatives of the media will have the opportunity to discover the different combat planes in Payerne on predefined dates. Accreditation is essential to participate. A separate registration is required for each event. The electronic registration form and further information on the press events are available on the DDPS website in the online file


"All Candidates Will Be Analyzed According to the Same Criteria"
(Source: Swiss Armaments Agency, armasuisse; issued April 08, 2019)
(Unofficial translation by
Trials for the acquisition of a new fighter jet have begun at Payerne Air Force Base. The five candidates (Eurofighter, F / A-18 Super Hornet, Rafale, F-35A and Gripen E) will be tested in flight and on the ground by the end of June 2019. Bernhard Berset, Head of Testing for this project and an armasuisse employees, answers our questions.

Q: Mr. Berset, could you explain what flight tests are? What is the focus?

A: Bernhard Berset: The test phase, which is part of the ordinary course of an acquisition project, consists of testing all the capabilities and characteristics of combat aircraft.
In addition to the military requirements, the tests are based on the answers to a very detailed questionnaire that the manufacturers had to answer during the request for tenders. The flight tests are used to verify the data provided by aircraft manufacturers in this context, with the main focus being on the performance of the sensors, their integration into the combat aircraft, and how the data obtained is presented to the pilot. But performance and flight characteristics are of course also part of the tests.

However, these flight tests are only part of the test activities: the evaluation of logistical aspects related to the operation of candidate aircraft, for example the preparation of the aircraft, is equally important. Indeed, operations generate a significant part of the costs.

This is why, before flight tests in Switzerland, simulator tests are carried out in the country of the manufacturer for about two weeks. The use of modern simulators has significantly reduced the number of flying hours compared to previous assessments and thus reduced costs. In the same vein, for the field of logistics and operations, so-called product-support audits were carried out at the manufacturers or the air forces of the manufacturing countries.

Q: Why are the trials of new fighter planes taking place in Switzerland and not in the country of the manufacture?

A: Bernhard Berset: Not all tests will take place in Switzerland -- An important share of the ground tests and simulator checks are taking place in the country of the manufacturer because it allows us to achieve them at lower cost and with better quality.

However, conducting flight tests in Switzerland was one of the requirements imposed on manufacturers. This is the only way to ensure that test conditions are the same for all applicants. This allows the same representation of the targets or the engagement of the sensors in the same environment. Moreover, this is the only way to ensure that new systems are in harmony with existing infrastructures.

Q: What are the most important challenges during testing? Are there any risks?

A: Bernhard Berset: The number of candidates is a challenge. We control expenses through accurate planning and we always ensure that the extent and level of testing is as complete and efficient as possible.

Risks are taken into account, monitored and, if possible, minimized or eliminated for the entire duration of the acquisition project and consequently also for the flight tests. For example, we plan as much as possible to reserve blocks to compensate for possible flight cancellations due to the weather.

Q: How do you ensure that all models are evaluated in the same way?

A: Bernhard Berset: On the one hand, all candidates must undergo the same test program. On the other hand, the documentation and the analysis are carried out according to precisely defined processes and methods. These activities are conducted by joint teams of experts from the Air Force, the Army Staff, the Army Logistics Base, the Command Support Base and armasuisse, thus allowing all the services concerned to be involved in the evaluation process.

Q: What is the role of armasuisse? What are the missions of the Air Force?

A: Bernhard Berset: In principle, armasuisse leads the evaluation during this acquisition phase. However, as I said before, for these tests we work within an integrated team. The Air Force is also represented by Major EMG Cédric Aufranc, my deputy. In addition to the organizational units already mentioned, we are also assisted in the assessment by Land Forces services, including Military Security. On the basis of the results obtained together, the formal responsibility for the general and logistical fitness for use by the Troop is still with the Army Staff, the Air Force and the Army Logistics Base. while that concerning acquisition maturity belongs to armasuisse.

Q: What are you happy about?

A: Bernhard Berset: I look forward to doing these tests with a highly motivated integrated team.

Q: Will you fly the planes yourself? Who does it for you or for you?

A: Bernhard Berset: For candidates submitting two-seat fighter jets for evaluation, it is expected that two Air Force test pilots and two armasuisse test pilots will fly, together with manufacturer's test pilot. For manufacturers offering only single-seat aircraft, this task will be supported by the manufacturer's pilots. All candidates will be evaluated according to the same criteria and by Swiss test pilots and engineers. As test manager, I'm focusing on the management of this part of the project and I leave the flying activities to my colleagues.

Test Pilot and Flight Test Engineer

Test pilot positions opening in the Ministry of Defence, whether in the specialized Flight Tests field with armasuisse in Emmen, or in the Air Force’s operational tests and evaluation service in Payerne, are publicized to the entire corps of military pilots.
After the selection procedure, young test pilots and flight test engineers undergo extensive additional training which also includes courses in test pilot schools abroad.
The requirements are excellent piloting skills, a taste for analytical processes as well as a great interest and a good understanding of the technology.
Typically, flight test pilots and flight test engineers have studied at a technically oriented university or technical college. Good oral and written communication skills and excellent team spirit are also essential because, in the complex military aviation environment, you cannot go it alone.


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