The Swiss Air Force fleet of F/A-18 Hornet fighters has completed the first stage of service life extension upgrades that are being undertaken to allow them to remain in service until the next-generation F-35 fighters arrive.
The upgrades, which were approved by parliament in 2017, will cost 450 million francs (approx. $486M) and are necessary to keep the Hornets operationally relevant until around 2030.
As part of the first stage of the upgrades, the Hornets have received upgrades to communication, navigation and identification friend or foe (IFF) systems.
Additionally, CAE provided upgrades for the SHOTS operational training system. SHOTS consists of four fully networked mission simulators designed for immersive mission training. CAE updated the current visual system to L3 Link’s SimuSphere HD 9-facet visual system display, while the trainers were updated with the latest operational flight program (OFP) and include a complete technology refresh of the
hardware and software systems.
A new night vision device was procured for integration in the multifunctional helmet and is already being used in night flight training.
In the second phase, further adjustments to the software will be introduced along with a new encrypted radio system.
Eventually, the Hornets will be certified to perform 6,000 flight hours, which will be ensured through a structural renovation program with accompanying preventive measures on the airframe structure.
All of the work being undertaken will allow the the 25-year-old aircraft to remain in service until their predecessor is fielded.
Switzerland is set to start receiving first F-35A fighters and Patriot air defense systems in 2025, under a contract from June 2021 with the United States and Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, the systems manufacturers. Switzerland has 36 F-35 fighters and five Patriot systems on order.