Modernization of Swiss F-35As creates political turmoil in the country

The Swiss F-35As are once again making headlines in the Swiss press. Indeed, after the questions about the criteria used during the 2021 competition, to make the American plane its winner, it is now budgetary questions which are once again shaking up this very sensitive issue.

This weekend, after revelations made by the national press, the Federal Armaments Office (Armasuisse), recognized that the modernization of the P&W F135 turbojets of the Swiss F-35A, which will take place just a few months after delivery of the last aircraft, would be paid by the Swiss Air Force, and would not be included in the initial contract,.

This declaration follows numerous prevarications on the part of Armasuisse, which refused to express itself explicitly on the subject, provoking the ire of several Swiss parliamentarians who question the management of the file by the office as well as by the Swiss authorities, especially since they still refuse to give estimates concerning the costs of this modernization, so to speak imposed by Lockheed Martin.

The contract for the acquisition of 36 Swiss F-35As under fire since 2021

Since he was declared the winner of the competition to replace the F/A-18 Hornets of the Swiss Air Force, the Swiss F-35A has become a divisive subject in the country. Moreover, it is not so much the device itself, or its capabilities, which are called into question by its transalpine detractors, but rather the arguments put forward by Armasuisse, the government agency in charge of this competition, and Viola Amherd, the federal advisor in charge of Defense, who are regularly targeted by severe criticism and accusations surrounding this issue.

F/A-18 Hornet Swiss Air Force
Modernization of Swiss F-35As creates political turmoil in country 6

Already, in July 2022, the lack of transparency of this competition and the argument of the lower price of the F-35A facing, in particular, the Rafale French, put forward to justify the choice of the American plane, had been strongly criticized by several Swiss parliamentarians. However, without clear answers to these subjects having been provided, the Swiss Parliament approved the contract with Lockheed Martin a few months later.

For the defenders of the file, there was no need to worry, even if the price of the F-35A fluctuated, and certain countries could face significant additional costs. In fact, Bernes had obtained from the American aircraft manufacturer, and from Washington, a guarantee of fixed prices, for the five years following the start of execution of the contract.

The Swiss F-35As will therefore indeed be sold at the negotiated price, without any unpleasant surprises. At least, that was how the file was presented to parliamentarians. What was their surprise a few days ago when Armasuisse confirmed that the Swiss F-35As will have to, from 2029, a few years, or even a few months after their delivery, undergo a major modernization, in particular concerning the turbojet F135.

And above all to discover that this important modernization, and therefore certainly expensive, will be supported by the Swiss federal budget, because it entails additional invoicing...

Barely delivered, the Swiss F-35As will have to modernize the F135 turbojet, and it is the Swiss who will pay

Indeed, like all F-35As delivered on this date, the Swiss combat aircraft will have to go through a major modernization phase, as soon as they will be delivered to the Swiss air forces. This will involve, among other things, modernizing the P&W F135 turbojet, which, by Lockheed Martin's own admission, is experiencing certain malfunctions that are deteriorating the performance and reliability of the aircraft.

F-135 turbojet afterburner F-35A
Modernization of Swiss F-35As creates political turmoil in country 7

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