The Swiss Federal Office for Defence Procurement, armasuisse, has revealed that the US Navy is seeking the purchase of 22 F-5E Tiger IIs formerly operated by the Swiss Air Force. According to armasuisse, talks between the US and Swiss governments were held during July. The contract is expected to be signed soon, now that the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act has signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Bloomberg reports that the total value of the deal is $39.7 million. In addition to the 22 aircraft, the deal will include spare parts for the aircraft. Delivery of the F-5Es to the US Navy is expected to start in 2021. The F-5Es will be used by the US Navy as adversary aircraft for dissimilar air combat training, following their upgrade to the F-5N standard.
The Swiss Air Force still operates 22 F-5Es and 4 F-5Fs, following a decision in 2018, to retire 27 Tiger IIs. 22 of the 27 are to be purchased by the US Navy, with the remaining 5 currently planned to be donated to museums. The US Navy had previously purchased 44 Swiss Tiger IIs as low-hour replacements for their F-5E/Fs.
Beat Flach, a Green Liberal member of the National Council of Switzerland, spoke to SonntagsZeitung on the proposed sale of the F-5s:
“If the Americans want to take over the scrap iron, they should do it. It’s better than having the Tigers rot in a parking lot.”
The Swiss Air Force currently seeks to replace its remaining F-5s in the Air 2030 program. A previous attempt to replace the F-5s with Gripen Es was narrowly voted down in a referendum in 2014. The Gripen E was disqualified from Air 2030 earlier this year, as it did not meet Swiss requirements for entry into the program.
The current contenders in the Air 2030 program are the Lockheed F-35A Lightning II, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Airbus Eurofighter Typhoon. Evaluations of the contenders are still underway. Whether the Air 2030 program will be subject to a referendum is unknown.