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Lockheed Martin is spying a possible sale of its F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to Switzerland as that country looks to reconstitute its aborted fighter replacement programme, a senior company official told reporters on 7 July.
Speaking ahead of the Farnborough International Airshow, Lockheed Martin's executive vice president and general manager for the F-35 programme, Jeff Babione, said that the company "absolutely" sees potential for a prospective sale to the Swiss.
"The Swiss [fighter replacement programme] will be a great opportunity to offer the F-35 - absolutely it would," Babione said, adding; "It would do well in any open and transparent competition."
The Swiss Air Force has an urgent need to replace its outdated Northrop F-5 Tiger II fleet, much of which has already been grounded by cracking issues, and will also need to begin phasing out its ageing Boeing F/A-18 Hornets in the not-too-distant future.
In April 2015 the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection, and Sport (VBS [previously DDPS]) announced that the country is to relaunch its efforts to procure a new fighter type following the decision by the Swiss people on 18 May 2014 to reject the funding for the Saab Gripen E replacement in a referendum not only scuppered air force's plans to retire its 54 Tiger IIs. Shortly after announcing this, the VBS said that the 31 Hornets would be added to the replacement programme.
The VBS is believed to have begun its preparatory work, with a planning, testing, and procurement preparation report for the procurement of a new fighter, known as a PEB-2017 Credit, due to be submitted to the Swiss parliament in 2017. The VBS plans to select a new fighter type in 2020, with parliamentary approval and the award of funding in 2022 and deliveries from 2025.
The government has previously stated that the new process should include two of the three shortlisted candidates from the previous effort: the Gripen E and the Dassault Rafale.
Gareth Jennings, RAF Fairford - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly