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Airbus Launches Counter-Offensive on Fighter Jet Contract

There are four firms in the running for the CHF6 billion fighter jet contract. Keystone / Mindaugas Kulbis

Ahead of the Swiss government’s decision on a major fighter jet contract, Airbus has made an appeal to the Swiss government to choose a European firm after leaked information from the government revealed US firm Lockheed Martin was out ahead of competitors.

“It is important for us that all seven government ministers assess the overall package,” Bernhard Brenner, Sales Director at Airbus Defence and Space, told the German-language paper SonntagsZeitungExternal link.

He argued that the decision shouldn’t solely be based on military criteria. “The economic and political elements are just as important.”

The Airbus Eurofighter is one of four fighter jets in the running for a CHF6 billion contract. The others include the French Rafale from Dassault, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, and Lockheed Martin’s F35-A.

On June 21, Swiss public television SRF reported that sources inside the government indicated that Lockheed Martin’s fighter jet was the favourite based on results of the evaluation. A source noted that cost was a factor, specifically that “Switzerland can buy a larger number of F-35s with the budgeted CHF6 billion than would be the case with the three competitors.”

Brenner added that Airbus is the only manufacturer that has offered to assemble its fighter jet in Switzerland if selected. “That generates a lot of jobs.” More than 200 Swiss companies are already suppliers to the group.

Political factors should also be considered, argued Brenner, stating that by choosing a European fighter jet, it would simplify dialogue with the European Union.

According to the SonntagsBlickExternal link paper, the Airbus dossier was accompanied by a letter from four European defense ministers addressed to Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd. According to the paper’s sources, the letter talks about cross-border partnerships in various areas including cyber security and infrastructure.

On September 27, Swiss voters narrowly approved a CHF6 billion funding packet that allows the armed forces to go ahead with the purchase of new fighter jets to replace its ageing fleet of F-5 Tigers and F/A-18 Hornet jets by 2030. New jets are to be delivered by 2025.

The Swiss government is expected to make its decision on the contract this week.

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