Swiss Air Force to overhaul its F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft to extend their flight hours

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The F/A-18 fighter jets will reach the end of their lifespans of 5,000 flight hours in 2025

On. Nov. 21, 2016, Swiss Defence Minister Guy Parmelin revealed that his ministry will seek permission from Parliament next year for $486 million to extend the lifespan of the Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornet fleet.

In fact as reported by Swissinfo.ch the F/A-18 fighter jets, which perform Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) service to defend Switzerland’s airspace, will reach the end of their lifespans of 5,000 flight hours in 2025. In its new fighter jet strategy, the defence minister recommended to extend their flight hours to 6,000 by evaluating and reinforcing structural weaknesses as well as replacing certain parts of the jets.

Moreover the Swiss Air Force plans to keep in service some of its aging F-5 Tigers until a new fighter aircraft comes online.

Parmelin is looking forward to launch a new fighter competition soon: the selection of the new aircraft will be based on a report prepared by a group of experts and will be limited to three type of fighters, specifically the JAS-39 Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale, or even just one of the three.

Selection will be carried out in 2020 with funds allocated to buy the aircraft in 2022. The winner is expected to enter service in 2025.

Noteworthy the purchasing of new fighter planes has stalled after the Swiss people voted against the acquisition of 22 JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets in 2014.

The Swiss Air Force is currently facing a shortage of operational fighters: actually according to the defence ministry, only 25 of its 53 F-5 Tiger fighter jets are air worthy, while 30 of 34 F/A-18 planes are operational. The Hornets in particular have been involved in a series of recent accidents: on Aug. 29, 2016 an F/A-18 crashed into the mountains near Susten in central Switzerland, while two more Hornets were written off after crashes in France and Switzerland in 2015 and 2013 respectively.

Photo credit: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikipedia