Switzerland signs £5.5bn deal with US to buy 36 fighter jets

The F-35A warplanes will be delivered between 2027 and 2030

Swiss officials have signed a procurement contract to acquire three dozen F-35 fighter jets from the US, part of a plan to update its air force. AP
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Switzerland has agreed a contract with the US to purchase 36 F-35A fighter jets to replace its present fleet in a deal worth £5.5bn ($6.24bn).

The country's national armaments director Martin Sonderegger and Swiss F-35A programme manager Darko Savic signed the procurement contract this week in Bern, Switzerland's capital.

The aircraft will be delivered between 2027 and 2030 and will replace the current fleet of F/A-18 Hornets and F-5 Tigers.

"With this, the procurement of 36 F-35A is contractually agreed," said Armasuisse, the country's arms procurement agency.

In addition to the aircraft, the cost also covers mission-specific equipment, weapons and ammunition, a logistics package, mission-planning systems and training systems.

The selection of the F-35 by the Swiss government in June 2021 sparked some controversy, particularly in light of the overrunning cost of the fighter programme in the US.

But a Swiss parliamentary investigation did not call into question the government's choice of the fighter jets.

The Swiss government and Parliament also rejected holding a referendum on buying the planes, despite enough signatures being collected to put the issue to voters, saying there was not enough time to do so before manufacturer Lockheed Martin's offer expired.

Switzerland joins a growing number of European countries which have opted for the stealth multirole combat aircraft, with Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland all in possession of the fighters.

The US is providing the jets through its contract with Lockheed Martin.

In July, the US Department of Defence agreed with Lockheed Martin Corp to build about 375 F-35 fighter jets over three years as part of a $30bn deal.

The agreement came amid expectations that the price of the most common version of the aircraft would increase because of inflation and slower production.

The most common version is the F-35A, which flies conventionally from runways.

The first aircraft of that version cost $221 million when it came off the production line in 2007.

Since then, production quantities and know-how have increased, helping the price of the stealthy fifth-generation fighter to fall to $79m as it gained more buyers.

Updated: September 21, 2022, 12:08 PM