After an impressive track record of 200 years without engaging in a war, a narrow vote by the Swiss people has given the go-ahead for the government to spend $6.5 billion to update Switzerland’s fighter jet inventory.
According to a Reuters article, Switzerland currently has an aging fleet of 30 F/A-18 Hornets which will not be viable past 2030.
Of course, there has been a major pushback by certain parties: The attitude by some is why Switzerland, a neutral country, needs fighter jets that can literally traverse the entire country in just 10 minutes. Others are concerned that the price tag is too steep and could be better spent in different areas.
Priska Seiler Graf, a Socialist Democrat and member of the Swiss parliament asked: “Who is our enemy? Who is attacking a small, neutral country — surrounded by NATO?”
Graf went on to say, “We need new aircraft, that is not disputed, but buying lighter, simpler aircraft would be enough. It would be better to have a Fiat than a Maserati.”
According to pollster Lukas Golder, it’s not surprising that the final vote was in support of purchasing new fighter jets for the Swiss airforce. Golder stated that Switzerland operates on the concept of “armed neutrality.” For example, many Swiss believe that their strong military is what deterred Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany from invading their country. Therefore, this approach would argue in favor of having a strong military.
Thomas Hurter, a lawmaker in the Swiss People’s Party and a former air force pilot, claimed that Switzerland must always be capable of defending itself without the assistance of other countries. Hurter said, “If we don’t replace these old aircraft, that means we have no air force, there is no protection [anymore] and we are not fulfilling our constitution.”
Countering Seiler Graf’s comments, Hurter claimed that smaller, cheaper jets did not meet the performance requirements. He specified that cheaper jets could not fly high enough and lacked the acceleration needed to maneuver out of dangerous situations.
Switzerland has not chosen an airframe yet. The current options they’re looking at are Airbus’s Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault’s Rafale, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, and Lockheed Martin’s F35-A Lightning II.
In practice, voters do not have a say in which specific aircraft will be chosen. “Group for a Switzerland without an Army” an organization that aims to decrease Switzerland’s military footprint, claimed that it plans to continue to contending the government’s decision and make an effort to reverse the outcome, in the name of the Swiss people.
Government officials are not concerned by such rhetoric and plan to finalize the contract in 2021.