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Monday, August 8, 2022

Switzerland Got A Taste Of The F-35 And Patriot During Armeebotschaft 2022

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F-35 Switzerland
Two Italian F-35s seen from a Swiss Hornet. (Image credit: Marzio Martinetti via ItAF)

Switzerland presented citizens and authorities the weapon systems chosen to defend the small Alpine State from current and future threats.

Two F-35A Lightning II of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), took part in “Armeebotschaft 2022” at Emmen Air Base, Switzerland last week. The presence of the two Italian aircraft was requested by the Swiss government to present the population and authorities the new fighter which was chosen to replace the current aircraft in the Swiss Air Force.

With the “Armeebotschaft 2022” (Army Message 2022), the Swiss Federal Council is asking the Federal Chambers for an amount of 9.3 billion Swiss francs (about 9B Euro) for the purchase of the F-35A fighter aircraft (around 6 billion CHF) and the Raytheon Patriot ground-to-air defense system (about 2 billion) and also about 190 million Swiss francs for related infrastructures (the remaining budget for other investments for the Schweizer Armee – Swiss Army).

One of the two F-35A lands at Emmen AB, Switzerland on Mar. 18, 2022. (All images, credit: Daniele Maiolo / Best Shot Aircraft)

The Federal Council’s message also includes the decommissioning of the Northrop F-5 Tiger fighter jets that have been flying for over 40 years now. These investments, according to the Swiss authorities, will lead to a concrete increase in work and demand for personnel to Swiss companies due to the agreements made with the manufacturers of the defense systems.

Raytheon Patriot ground-to-air defense system, under acquisition, guarantees coverage of the 15,000 sq. km required by the defense department with four units in at least two separate areas to be covered. The units are assigned to the two areas to be covered as appropriate, while the fifth unit will act as a circulating logistic reserve.

The Patriot air defense system on display.

The Swiss Air Forces aim for a series of high-tech weapon systems to ensure the protection of the small Alpine state from all the current and future threats and along with the 5th generation aircraft and the Patriot ground defense system, they have already decided to purchase new drones, of Israeli production, the Elbit Hermes 900 “Kochav”.

Inviting the Aeronautica Militare Italiana with its aircraft was very useful for the Government to give a real impression of the potential and technology of the F-35A in particular to its own population. Switzerland, which enjoys direct democracy, has already seen the cancellation of the purchase process for Saab Gripen aircraft in 2014 following a referendum.

One of the Italian Air Force F-35As taxiing at Emmen AB.

Coming from Amendola AB, home of the 32° Stormo, the two F-35As of the Italian Air Force landed at Emmen on Mar. 18, 2022, and remained there for Swiss government for presentations, until Friday Mar. 25. Inside the new hangars of the Emmen Flight Test Center there were also the mock-ups of the F-35, of the Pratt&Whitney F135-PW-100 engine, as well as an F-35 simulator presented by Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Tony “Brick “Wilson.

The F-35 simulator.

The pilots of the Italian Air Force also performed some maneuvers over the Lucerne military airport together with an F/A-18 Hornets of the Swiss Air Force to measure the noise produced by the 5th generation aircraft. The noise level was among the factors influencing the purchase decision but the F-35 has proven not to bring an excessive increase in noise or pollution compared to previous aircraft.

Dealing with the production of the F-35As, this will take place in Italy at the FACO facility in Cameri where at least 24 aircraft will be assembled for Switzerland. Four aircraft should be assembled by RUAG in Emmen, in order to train the staff for local maintenance and the first eight F-35As will be produced at Lockheed Martin in the U.S. and delivered to the Swiss Air Force from 2027.

The building of the Flight Test Center at Emmen.

During the meeting with the media, Commander of Swiss Air Forces Major General Peter “Pablo” Merz explained the evaluation/purchase factors of both the aircraft and the ground defense system: interoperability, operational life expectancy for a period longer than 30 years, cooperation, technical support and offset. In particular, for the F-35, the evaluation revealed it as “the most effective”, “the cheapest”, “the most sustainable”, words also used by the Federal Council as a presentation of their choice.

Commander of Swiss Air Forces Major General Peter “Pablo” Merz during the presentation.

According to the staff of Swiss experts, the Lockheed aircraft fulfilled all the requests of the staff appointed by the Swiss government, guaranteeing operability for many years and the latest technology available to the air forces. Commander Merz also strengthened this position considering that many European and world nations have chosen the F-35; that some have already reached the “Combat Readiness” with the type that is increasingly used in real missions.

The involvement of Swiss companies with an offset of around 3 billion francs is another valid point in favor of the purchase of these defense systems for the future of Switzerland, a topic that was also amply clarified by Commander Merz’s answers to journalists questions.

In addition to Commander Merz, Peter Huber, of the Board of Directors of Mercury Mission System SA and Thomas Kipfer, Senior Vice President Business Area Air of RUAG AG also spoke to present the commitment of their companies in support of the future new Swiss F-35A air fleet and to the new defense systems.

The air bases used by the three F-35A squadrons will be Payerne (Staffel 17 and 18, with 57% of the standard movements), Meiringen (Staffel 11, with about 28% of the movements) and of course Emmen (flight test center, which will be engaged at 15%). On all three bases, daily maintenance will take place in cooperation with RUAG AG.

F-35 mock up.

The supply will be from 2027 to 2030, the year in which the decommissioning of the F/A-18 by the Swiss air forces is expected. The Swiss Air Force will use 36 F-35A compared to the current 55 aircraft (30x F/A-18 Hornets and 25x F-5 Tigers) meaning that flight hours can be reduced ensuring a lower need for fuel, a decrease in noise and a decrease in atmospheric pollution.

The impression given by the Italian F-35A was very positive and appreciated by both the government guests and the spectators who reached the air base from all over Switzerland throughout the week: it looks like it was “love at first sight” between the Swiss and their future combat aircraft.

The Italian Air Force F-35s were the highlight of the spotter days of “Armeebotschaft 2022”

Daniele Maiolo is a freelance photographer/reporter based in Zurich in Switzerland.
Editor and photographer at Best Shot Aircraft, he is a composite materials specialist and aeronautical technician at an MRO Company at Zurich airport.





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