Switzerland has opted to buy 22 Saab Gripen JAS-39E/Fs in its long-running F-5 Tiger replacement program, says Defense Minister Ueli Maurer.

Gripen beat out the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter TyphoonBoeing withdrew the F/A-18E/F early from the program.

The arrangement marks a big setback for Dassault, which was hoping to finally secure its first export deal for Rafale. Eurofighter also was eager to convince Switzerland to join the family; Italy, Austria and Germany already fly the aircraft. Switzerland also considered an F-5 extension, but that was deemed too expensive.

All three main contenders met the requirements put forward by the services. But the Gripen had several advantages, Maurer says, including price, which leaves money left over for other military needs.

The Gripen had both the lowest acquisition costs and lower 30-year life-cycle costs by far, says Maurer. The procurement program is likely to cost less than 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.3 billion).

Moreover, Switzerland liked the potential for industrial cooperation on offer from Saab.

Maurer acknowledges the Swedish fighter may not be the highest-end technical option, but he says it is a good fit for Switzerland and meets the country’s needs.

Switzerland and Sweden will now refine the program in the coming months. That includes setting up pilot training, including potential training in Sweden. Also still under review is whether final assembly of the aircraft will take place in Switzerland.

All three bidders provided good offset packages that were essentially equivalent—100% of the value of the deal has to be offset. The industrial participation packages were also attractive across the board, the Swiss say.

The exact delivery schedule is being negotiated. The first aircraft is likely to arrive in 2015 and all aircraft are to be handed over in a 2-3-year period.

Maurer says no decision has been made on whether the Gripen would also serve as the eventual replacement for Switzerland’s existing fleet of older F/A-18s.

The Swiss government also considered a smaller procurement, but a decision was made to field at least two squadrons, requiring 22 aircraft. At one point, the program was sized to equip three squadrons, or 33 aircraft, but was ruled out for financial reasons.