Saab withdraws from Swiss fighter competition

Saab will not participate in the competition to select Switzerland’s next fighter aircraft under the nation’s Air2030 programme.

Two Gripen E aircraft were scheduled to fly to Payerne, Switzerland on June 24 for four days’ evaluation by the Swiss but the nation’s defence procurement agency, armasuisse decided against it.

Armasuisse wrote in a press release: “Based on recent information and analyses on both the maturity and the integration of the subsystems, experts from armasuisse and the Swiss Air Force concluded that several of the planned missions could not be carried out meaningfully.”

Saab said in a press release: “The Gripen E development plan does not match the Swiss plan to perform flight tests with aircraft that are operationally ready in 2019. Therefore, Saab has decided not to attend the Swiss flight tests.

Saab has not withdrawn its offer to supply at least 40 Gripen Es to Switzerland to replace its F/A-18C Hornets and F-5E Tigers.

Boeing’s Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-35, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault’s Rafale have already performed flight tests in Switzerland; Gripen was supposed to be the last of the five contenders to show offits jets. No two-seat Gripen Fs are flying at the moment, but Saab has fitted out a two-seat Gripen NG test aircraft with a Gripen E cockpit and offered a Gripen C for testing too.

Saab explained the Swiss tests were developed for the evaluation of aircraft already operational. Oddly, the Rafale F4 variant offered to Switzerland is yet to fly and the Typhoon offered is more capable than any flying at the moment. Saab maintains Gripen E will be in operational service long before Switzerland requires its new jets.

The last time Switzerland evaluated fighter jets, in 2014, Saab won the competition with its Gripen C, but the purchase was vetoed by the Swiss electorate on cost grounds.