Looking back at past activities
Planning activities for the partial replacement of the 30 year old F-5-Tiger fleet began more than a year ago. Only aircraft could be considered which were already introduced in the air force of the manufacturing country. In January 2008 armasuisse submitted a request for proposal to the aircraft manufacturers Boeing, Dassault, EADS and Saab. On 30 April 2008 Boeing decided not to submit an offer. So the remaining candidates for the Partial Tiger Replacement were the „Gripen“ manufactured by Saab in Sweden, the French „Rafale“ from Dassault, and the „Eurofighter“ manufactured by the European consortium EADS. To prepare the evaluation, the Swiss test team performed a one-week training for each candidate in early summer 2008 in the country of the manufacturer.
With the touchdown of the Gripen on 28 July 2008, the evaluations for the potential successor of the F-5-Tiger began, each of which lasted three weeks. The flight and ground tests were continued, when the Rafale landed on 9 October 2008 and the Eurofighter on 6 November 2008. Two two-seater jets of the respective manufacturer were stationed at the Emmen military airbase for the tests. Each candidate was flown by a Swiss pilot. A second pilot from the manufacturer accompanied him on the rear seat and supported his Swiss colleague during the tests.
Evaluation Saab Gripen (28 July 2008 – 19 August 2008)
The flight and ground tests with the first candidate, the Swedish Gripen, began on 28 July and included around 30 flights with about 35 flying hours. The Gripen was followed by the French Rafale.
Evaluation Dassault Rafale (13 October 2008 – 4 November 2008)
The flight and ground tests with French Rafale began on 13 October 2008 and included 39 flights with about 60 flying hours. The higher number of flights and flying hours compared to the Gripen and Eurofighter were used for extended tests with a new type of radar. The Rafale was followed by the Eurofighter as third and last candidate.
Evaluation EADS Eurofighter (6. November 2008 – 2. Dezember 2008)
The evaluation of the last TTE candidate began on 6 November 2008 with the touchdown of the two Eurofighters, and was concluded on 2 December 2008, when they returned to Germany. During the evaluation of the Eurofighter armasuisse and air force pilots performed a total of 31 flights with 45 flying hours, as planned.
Flight and ground tests completed
The Swiss Air Force supported the evaluation with about 50 F-5E/F und F/A-18C/D sorties per candidate (target aircraft and formation flying). Night and supersonic flights were also carried out. The flights undertaken during the evaluation were part of existing flight quotas and did not lead to more flights on the airbases in question. During the tests the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA) conducted noise measurements in Emmen and Meiringen, the results of which will also become part of the evaluation.
The Commander Swiss Air Force a.i., Major General Markus Gygax, received a personal impression of the three candidates during demonstration flights.
The next steps?
In January 2009 Dassault, EADS and Saab will be invited by armasuisse to submit a second offer; receipt of the second offer is foreseen for April 09. The evaluation of the tests and offers underway since mid 2008 will be concluded in May 2009 with the evaluation report prepared by armasuisse. The selection of the aircraft type, made by the Chief of Armament after consultation with the Head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport and the Commander of the Swiss Air Force, is planned for mid July 2009. The Partial Tiger Replacement is expected to be procured with Armament Program 2010.
Both the Swiss population and the media showed great interest in the evaluation
For each of the three candidates armasuisse organised a media event at the Emmen military airbase, in which a great number of Swiss and foreign media representatives took part. The interested citizens followed the evaluation from various spectators' stands – in addition armasuisse offered three events, where the respective aircraft could be observed and photographed at close range.