Airbus Dismayed By Swiss F-35 Decision

Credit: U.S. Navy

Airbus has expressed frustration at Switzerland’s decision to purchase the F-35, appearing to question Bern’s analysis on operating costs and operational capabilities of the Lockheed Martin-built fighter. 

Airbus, which competed the Eurofighter in conjunction with the German government, said that the arguments put forward for the choice of the F-35 “especially with regard to costs and operational aspects, are neither in line with the practical experience of other user nations nor with our operational analyses,” the company said in a statement. Airbus said it was now awaiting detailed information from the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS), adding it will “intensively analyze the reasons for the decision and, if necessary, critically question them.” 

The government in Bern announced June 30 that it had selected a package of 36 F-35s to fulfill the combat aircraft element of its Air2030 air defense program. The aircraft won out over competition from Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale and the aforementioned Eurofighter. 

Swiss evaluations state that the F-35 scored most highly in terms of effectiveness, product support and international cooperation, but had a weak offset proposal. Scores for the other platforms have not yet been made public. 

Airbus says its offer was “tailor-made” for Switzerland, providing an aircraft that is “ideally suited for air policing.” The company also says it provided a “credible commercial offer” that was the only one to provide for full final assembly in Switzerland. 

Final assembly was not a requirement of the Swiss contest, but Airbus proposed a plan to give the country “complete data sovereignty,” officials have said previously. Lockheed Martin also proposed the local assembly of four aircraft to support the development of skills for the fleet in-country. It is not clear if that option will be taken up. Airbus says it will continue to be a partner to Switzerland and will follow the political process–possibly a reference to the political opposition that has emerged since the decision was announced. 

A political group, Group for a Switzerland Without an Army, has already begun collecting signatures to petition for a referendum that could stop the F-35 buy. The organization cites Canadian studies that say the through life cost of the F-35 could be twice that published by the DDPS’s evaluation. 

The DDPS said its decisions have been the subject of an independent “plausibility check” by a Zurich-based law firm. 

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.


Sour grapes from EU countries that can't tolerate non-aligned States.
Your photo suggests that they are planning to buy F-35Bs; is that right?
Suspect this was the choice of Swiss pilots.
And if the result was reversed and negative and we started whining about it, what would the reaction have been?