Soldatin Oesterreich

Eurofighter’s Rough Ride in Austria Continues

Defense Industry Daily, Jun 24, 2014

Austrian military breaking down, must try to cede aerial sovereignty to other countries for adequate coverage.

June 20/14: Going to broke. Austria continues to cut their defense budget, with planned reductions to 0.5% of GDP that may leave them with almost no air force. Austria’s Kurier pegs flight-hour costs for Austria’s Eurofighters at an astonishing EUR 70,000, and says that the budget will force the jets to cancel quick-reaction exercises, and operate the planes only from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.

In addition, agreements would be required with Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, in order to coordinate air policing by allowing other nations’ aircraft to overfly Austria. The question is whether they will be interested, given their own tight budgets. Hungary already has an agreement with Slovenia, but they only have 14 jets. The Czech air force isn’t any bigger, and Slovakia can’t help. Switzerland’s own air force can’t operate around the clock, and recently had to depend on the French and Italians to deal with a highjacked jet that landed in their country. The failure of their recent fighter referendum leaves them in a position where they need to conserve remaining flight hours in their F/A-18C/D Hornets.

If the de facto result of this policy is to partially cede Austrian air sovereignty to Germany, is that really a politically wise move? A second-loop question might also ask whether picking a fighter known to have high operating expenses was a good idea for Austria in the first place.

[Source: Austria Kurier, “Ungarische Gripen sollen Wien sichern”.]

In 2003, Austria signed a EUR 2 billion contract to receive 18 EADS Eurofighters plus required support (just over $2.5 billion, or about $140 million per plane). The aircraft were already under construction in Germany when the 2006 election results forced the leftist SPO party, whose campaign promises included canceling the fighter deal, into the Austrian government coalition.

That shift led to a fraught series of negotiations within Austria, and then with EADS. The 2 sides played a game of billion-dollar chicken, leading to a settlement in 2007. The Eurofighter’s rough ride in Austria seemed to be over with delivery of the 15th and final aircraft in 2009, but controversies continue.

Grandiose statements from the SPO immediately after the 2006 election were followed by a quick crash back to reality, as the mathematics of the electoral results asserted themselves. Eventually, a grand coalition government was formed that pledged to resume negotiations with EADS, after a response from Eurofighter GmbH set Austria’s cost of cancellation at EUR 1.2 billion in return for zero aircraft.

While those negotiations continued, the first Austrian Eurofighter flew, #2 was rolled out, #3-6 were in final assembly, and the rest kept advancing into partial assembly.

Eventually, a EUR 1.63 billion compromise was set for 15 Tranche 1, Block 5 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters and support services. Germany is a key source of support and training, allowing the Austrians to use their infrastructure and facilities.

May 15/14: Going to broke. SPO Party Defence Minister Gerald Klug admits that the army “is no longer financially viable” at a total budget of EUR 1.948 billion, which includes EUR 1.3 billion in personnel costs. Vehicles are being impounded, helicopters are running into trouble, and even deployments to flooded areas are being delayed as the Army looks to rent civilian vehicles.

Meanwhile, the air force has only 12 pilots for its 15 Eurofighters. The problem is that they have to maintain flying qualifications, and there are only enough flight hours to keep 12 pilots qualified. Others have reportedly been redeployed into the Army as simulator instructors. sources: Austria’s The Local, “Austrian army ‘going broke’” and “Only 12 pilots for 15 Eurofighter jets”.

Austria's primary-use fixed-wing aircraft is the Saab 105.Ö Trainer (Sweden)

40 were imported from Sweden, 1970-72. 12 have crashed. 28 are still in use.

Oesterreich Saab 105

Oesterreich Saab 105

Saab 105 Sweden

Austria also has 13 Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainers (of 16 imported from Switzerland in 1983) and 66 helicopters (w 3 on order)

Austrian Eurofighter Typhoon

Original order of 24 reduced to 18, later to 15. Only 12 pilots.

Oesterreich Eurofighter Typhoon


The Swiss air force: armed and dangerous, but only in office hours

It's no fly-by-night military outfit and it doesn't start work too early in the morning, either, as the recent Ethiopian Airlines hijack proved

The Guardian, 19 February 2014

There's something almost too civilised about a country whose fighter jets stick to office hours (note to would-be terrorists and airspace infiltrators: they also stop for an hour and a half for lunch, and there's no service at weekends). It was French and Italian jet pilots who escorted the Ethiopian Airlines plane hijacked by its co-pilot safely to Geneva airport on Monday morning – because, at 6.02am, it was still nearly two hours before the Swiss air force came to work.

"Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend," spokesman Laurent Savary told AFP. "It's a question of budget and staffing."

It was not always so. The Swiss air force was founded in 1914 with nine pilots. By the 1940s it was well capable of defending its neutral airspace. But in recent years military spending has decreased. Fewer jets have been bought and many of its pilots have become reservists. Now the country relies on its neighbours' military capabilities – last month the Austrian air force helped police Swiss airspace during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"The capability to provide a 24-hour response with interceptors is currently missing for financial reasons," says David Cenciotti, an Italian journalist who blogs as The Aviationist. "There are agreements with neighbouring countries – Italy and France in particular – that enable fighter jets from both air forces to enter Swiss airspace whenever needed to manage an aerial threat. So the risk is limited. Still, there is a residual risk. If a plane is hijacked over Switzerland and directed to hit a sensitive target within the country fighter jets launched from France or Italy would have little to no chance to intervene."

The Swiss government now wants to spend more than £2bn on 22 new Swedish-made fighter jets. The deal will be put to a referendum in May, though according to recent polls 53% of voters are against it. If it happens, it could mean a move to round-the-clock capabilities from around 2020; bad news for the pilots enjoying those long lunch breaks.

Post a comment

Private comment




Search form
Latest Journals
Latest comments
Monthly archive
Friend Request Form

Want to be friends with this user.