Pentagon Favors F-35 Over F-18E in Offers to Switzerland
(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; posted Oct. 01, 2020)

By Giovanni de Briganti
Super Hornet out? By offering the F-18E/F at more than $1 billion over the budget set by Switzerland for its new fighter program, the US government has ensured that it will be ruled out, leaving the F-35 as the only financially-compliant US bidder. (Swiss MoD photo)
PARIS --- The Pentagon’s pricing of its two competing offers for Switzerland’s Air2030 fighter replacement competition clearly favors the Lockheed F-35A at the expense of the Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornet.

As notified to Congress on Sept. 30, the price for the 40 Super Hornets offered to Switzerland is set at $7.45 billion, clearly exceeding the 6 billion Swiss francs at Jan. 2018 prices ($6.52 billion at today’s exchange rate) that Switzerland has earmarked for the purchase of its new fighters.

That budget is now set in stone, after having been approved by Swiss voters in Sunday’s referendum, and under Swiss law cannot be exceeded.

Consequently, by offering the Super Hornet at nearly one billion over budget, Washington has ensured that it will be excluded from the competition, and that the F-35 remains the only financially compliant offer from the United States. Also competing for the Swiss contract are Germany, with the Airbus Eurofighter, and France, with the Dassault Aviation Rafale.

In contrast, the Congressional notification for the 40 F-35As offered to Switzerland sets their price at $6.58 billion, just $6 million over the Swiss budget and a difference that can be wiped out by daily exchange rate fluctuations.

Subjective descriptions

The difference in pricing is not the only sign that the Pentagon is influencing Switzerland’s selection towards the F-35 at the expense of the F-18E.

In its Congressional notification, the Super Hornet is presented as improving “Switzerland’s capability to meet current and future threats,” and adds that “The primary missions of the aircraft and associated weapons will be policing the airspace above Switzerland and providing national defense capabilities.”

By contrast, the notification of the F-35A sale states that the “proposed sale of F-35s and associated missiles and munitions will provide the Government of Switzerland with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region,” and “will also replace Switzerland's retiring F/A-18s and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability.”

Selective support needs

Finally, the F-35’s notification glosses over the aircraft’s need for a high degree of contractor support because of the well-documented failings of its Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS), while saying that the Super Hornet will require a six-man contractor support team for the duration of its service life.

“Implementation of [the proposed F-35] sale will require multiple trips to Switzerland involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management and training over the life of the program. U.S. contractor representatives will be required in Switzerland to conduct Contractor Engineering Technical Services (CETS) and Autonomic Logistics and Global Support (ALGS).”

“Implementation of [the proposed F-18E] sale will require the assignment of six (6) additional U.S. contractor representatives to Switzerland on an intermittent basis for a duration of the life of the case to support delivery of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft and provide supply support management, inventory control, and equipment familiarization.”

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