What is the risk Switzerland is taking with the American fighter? Its unreliability has meanwhile also become a political problem in the US.
Director Diana Maurer is responsible for the F-35 fighter in US GAO auditors. Maurer says of the fifth-generation fighter, “The pilots tell GAO it’s a great plane – if the jet flies.”
GAO Court of Auditors
Open the box. Close the box
US GAO auditors examine government programs for discrepancy and financial risk. “We want to make sure US taxpayers get value for their money,” says Diana Maurer, GAO’s director of F-35, describes the task of her state but non-governmental regulator. GAO’s reports and recommendations are of great importance: they contribute to the US House of Representatives policy-making process.
The F-35 is a very efficient aircraft, and the pilots received a new, technically unique weapon system with the jet. But simply: it doesn’t always fly.
Failure prone engines
Because the self-imposed requirements have not yet been fully met, says Maurer. The F-35 program has yet to meet 13 of the 24 goals in the areas of reliability and maintainability – for example, in terms of availability.
The goal of the US Air Force is to have 64 to 72 percent of the F-35 available for all intended missions. But last year it was only 50 percent of the planes.
The numbers have improved, but there is still a large gap to the targets, according to GAO’s F-35 director. One of the reasons for low availability is the engine. Because when something breaks in an engine, it breaks down a lot. This results in long repair times.
Other F-35 engines coming soon?
Meanwhile, the F-35 engine has also become a political issue in the US. For example, the US Department of Defense must investigate on behalf of Congress whether a new engine should be installed in the F-35 at the end of the decade. That’s when Swiss jets are due to be delivered.
If you ask Armasuisse if the new engine poses financial and technical risks for Switzerland, the answer is no. It is common to further develop combat aircraft. Ultimately, it is up to Switzerland to decide whether to make any further changes.
VBS sees hardly any risk
In its latest reports, the US GAO has highlighted many other threats related to the F-35. So there are not enough spare parts. Or the so-called Block 4 upgrade program would be postponed another year until 2029. All points that also apply to Switzerland.
F-35 on Thursday’s topic in the Council of State
Open the box. Close the box
Legend: The keystone
On June 2, the first major decision for Switzerland’s military future is made: The Council of States is the first council to debate the Army’s 2022 message that will purchase 36 F-35 fighters for more than 6 billion francs. It will also discuss what financial and technical risks Switzerland would take when buying an American stealth fighter.
It seems that where American regulators believe the glass is half full, with the DDPS the glass is filled to the brim with water. In a military announcement, the DDPS described the technical and commercial risks associated with the purchase of the F-35 as low.
The Department of Defense says Switzerland benefits from strict US government oversight and commitments in the bids that exclude any financial risk. We’ll see if the US sees it that way. Usually the US government does not provide price guarantees to export customers, but rather the best estimate.
GAO Director Maurer places the “challenges” of the F-35 in the principles of fighter development. This is called “concurrency,” which can be paraphrased as “simultaneity.”
They started developing and producing an airplane at the same time – it didn’t go well.
Your agency has criticized this rule from the start, says Maurer. “We started developing the aircraft and producing it at the same time. Both at once. They said, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” but it didn’t turn out well, “said the US controller.