By Dan Darling, Forecast International
Switzerland’s Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports has shot down media rumors that some of the Swiss Air Force F-5 Tiger combat aircraft have been sold to Uruguay.
Currently the Swiss Air Force operates 50+ F-5E and F-5F Tiger II fighters, purchased between 1976 and 1981, whose airframes are at the end of their useful service lives. These are complemented by 32 newer F/A-18E/F Hornets.
Whether or not to replace the F-5 Tigers hovered over the Swiss political scene for the past four years until a popular referendum held on May 18 terminated government plans to replace the Tigers with 22 new-build Gripen E fighters, at a cost of CHF10 billion ($11.2 billion). Following the referendum, the Swiss government opted to shift the monies ring-fenced for that project – under an earmark referred to as the Gripen Fund Law – toward other ministries.
The Swiss Air Force’s F-5 fleet had been slated for retirement in 2016, a move that would drastically reduce its combat aircraft inventory and leave the service with one remaining fighter platform: the F/A-18E/F Hornet.
What to do with the F-5s remains the responsibility of Switzerland’s bicameral legislature, neither house of which opted to even consider the Defense Department’s plans to decommission the F-5 fleet. Defense Minister Ueli Maurer has stated that without a parliamentary decision on whether or not to approve the retirement of the Tigers, the fleet will remain in operation.