On 7 October, the Austrian Ministry of Defense reported that it had a budget of €16 billion available until 2027 for a possible acquisition of 5th-gen stealth fighters in the next decade. According to Janes 360, the aircraft referred to by the Austrians is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
The Austrian Air Force has been looking for a new fighter for at least five years to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon fleet, which has been in service since 2005.
However, the aircraft of the European Airbus/Leonardo/BAE Systems consortium has also been causing several complaints in the country, given its high operating cost.
The Typhoon’s flight hour cost is one of the highest in military aviation, estimated at $61,000 per flight hour. It’s a big difference from the F-35A, which requires an approximate spend of $30,000 per flight hour and has the advantage of being stealthy, unlike the Eurofighter.
According to the outlet, the Austrian Defense Ministry, through the armaments directorate, has already started to gather information about the F-35. The country’s authority, however, still does not confirm the movement. If such a purchase is made, Austria will be the 16th customer for Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation fighter.
Gripen is no longer an option
In 2020, the Austrian press pointed to Saab’s Gripen E/F as the ideal replacement for the Typhoon. At the time, it was said that the Swedish jet was interesting for the country’s air force precisely because of its low operating cost, about $4,700 per flight hour.
However, with the publication of the Austrian Ministry of Defense’s new requirement, which calls for stealth fighters, the most modern version of the Gripen could be left out of a possible Eurofighter replacement programme.
The Austrian Air Force was once a traditional Saab customer. Before relying on the Typhoons, the country’s air defense aircraft was the Saab 35 Draken.
The Austrians have also operated other military jets from the Swedish manufacturer, the J29 Tunnan and the Saab 91 Safir training aircraft. The only Scandinavian aircraft that remains active in the country is the Saab 105 advanced trainer aircraft.