FILE PHOTO - French fighter jet Rafale made by Dassault performs during the Breitling Airshow in Sion
By John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland on Friday received five bids to replace its aging fighter fleet, from European aerospace group Airbus, France's Dassault and Sweden's Saab, as well as Boeing and Lockheed Martin from the United States.
Switzerland's stable of Boeing McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C and D Hornets and Northrop F-5 Tigers is scheduled to be retired in the coming years, prompting it to seek new planes as part of its Air2030 program including aircraft and ground-based air defenses worth up to 8 billion Swiss francs ($8.06 billion).
It will now consider Airbus's Eurofighter, Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault's Rafale, F-35As made by Lockheed-Martin and Saab's Gripen E.
"The phase of analysis and testing starts," the Swiss Defence Department said. "From February to March 2019, specialists from (Swiss defense procurement agency) armasuisse and the Swiss Air Force will test the aircraft in simulators" at facilities of the planes' manufacturers.
Between April and July, the planes will be in Switzerland for aerial and ground tests, with public viewing opportunities. Assessments will continue through 2020 before a decision is made.
Switzerland wants new planes to be delivered by 2025.
Armasuisse had asked the planemakers to submit pricing for 30 or 40 planes, including logistics and guided missiles, among other criteria for the bids.
Switzerland, which last fought a short war in 1847, has struggled to convince its citizens to back a deal for new planes.
In 2014, around 52 percent voted against a 3.5 billion franc government proposal to buy 22 Gripen fighter jets from Saab. (https://reut.rs/2S6tTBS)
A renewed vote on the new program is also expected.
(Reporting by John Miller in Zurich and Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by Alison Williams)