Switzerland’s Federal Government will replace the Swiss Air Force’s fleet of F-5 Tiger II combat aircraft, with a lower number of modern combat aircraft.

The Tiger aircraft fleet, which has been in service with the air force since 1978, is now approaching the end of its operational life.

The Federal Council is expected to take a decision on the acquisition of new aircraft, as part of the proposed 2010 partial Tiger replacement (TTE) programme.

Aircraft manufacturers, including the EADS Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen, have been shortlisted for the acquisition programme.

The air force currently uses 54 Tiger aircraft, which have recently logged their 250,000th flight hour in Swiss skies.

Mainly used for the protection of airspace, 72 Northrop F-5 Tiger II combat aircraft, including 66 F-5E single-seater and six two-seater F-5Fs entered air force service as part of the armaments programme 1975.

Operated by airmen of the militia, the existing fleet of Swiss Tiger aircraft are mainly used to support squadrons of Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornets.

The current fleet of F-5s are also engaged in electronic warfare, target towing for air-to-air gun training by the F/A-18 and representation of adversary aircraft for training.

The Northrop-developed F-5 Tiger II combat aircraft has a maximum speed of 940kt, maximum range of 3,724km, and is powered by General Electric J85-GE-21 B turbojets.

The F-5 carries two 20mm M39 cannons with 280 rounds per gun, and has provision for 3,175kg (7,000lb) of disposable stores, including AAMs, ASMs, bomber, cluster bombs and dispenser weapons.