Austria has confirmed that it is to phase out operations of its Eurofighters, and acquire a new fleet of fighters with greater capabilities and lower costs.
The entire press release from the Austrian Defence Ministry reads like a press release for Saab’s Gripen
- Phasing out Eurofighter not just because it is too expensive, but also because the Tranche 1 aircraft cannot be upgraded cost-effectively. This is a problem other users have with Tranche 1: the aircraft are not compatible with many of the systems being put into Tranche 2 (new weapons) and Tranche 3 (the Captor E AESA radar)
- Phasing out the Saab 105 trainers. These are old, slow and expensive, and would have been retired anyway.
- A single fleet of 15 single-seat and 3 twin-seat supersonic fighters. This rules out LDO’s M346.
- Emphasis on lower costs, and the ability to fly/fight at night as well as day. This rules out the F-16.
- A need for a wide range of weapons and systems. Gripen E is at the start of its life, and has been designed for relatively simple addition of new capabilities. The fact that it has been ordered by Brazil, as well as Sweden, already gives it a wide range of potential weapons, since Brazil sources from the US and South Africa.
So: next step the Austro-Hungarian air force? Or a merged Alpine Neutrality air Force with Switzerland? The Austrian press release could substitute “F/A-18” for “Eurofighter Typhoon” and “F-5” for “Saab 105” and come straight out of Bern.