Next generation fighter for the Swiss air force



Gerd Broszeit, Sales Director at _cyel

The current capabilities of the Swiss Air Force will come to the end of their useful life, according to the head of the Federal Department of Defence, Guy Parmelin. When it comes to fighter jets, the 30 F/A-18s can still be used until 2030, while the 53 F-5 Tiger fighter aircraft are already no longer suitable for operations.

In consequence, the Swiss Federal Council wants to buy new fighter jets and ground-based air defence systems for the Swiss Air Force with total costs of 8 billion Swiss Francs. The Swiss Federal Council has not discussed the number or model of the aircraft, but one of the possible candidates will be a fifth-generation multirole combat aircraft from the United States.

According to the manufacturer, this fifth-generation multirole combat aircraft collects and shares data with the pilot and other friendly air assets through its “mission systems”, which means the operating software, avionics, integrated sensors and communication systems. All this shared data provides a very sophisticated situational awareness picture for the operators in all domains. Logistic data is also shared through this autonomous system in order to plan the right actions to maintain the aircraft mission ready.

This autonomous system is the IT backbone of this aircraft, which includes capabilities and services from operations, maintenance, training and much more. So, there is a network which is highly attractive for attackers. And there are concerns about the “mission systems”, the operating software may remain a black box. It is even feared that the Americans could ground such aircraft remotely, according to Swiss politician Priska Seiler Graf.

The discussion around this fifth-generation multirole combat aircraft and the knowledge published with the NSA files shows a deep skepticism around solutions and products that have their origin in the United States. The Swiss government officials are afraid of a plane phoning home and giving their data away to unknown 3rd parties.

Questions around software will be clarified within the procurement process. If the new fighter jets should be delivered in 2025, the Swiss government must decide by 2020.