120,000 Swiss want a new referendum to reject F-35s purchase
120,000 Swiss want a referendum to cancel the purchase of fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters. The opponents’ signatures have been collected and presented in the country’s parliament. The Federal Council is opposed.
The Federal Council strongly opposes the idea of a new referendum to reject the purchase of the ordered US F-35 fighter jets. According to the council, any delay will cause prices to rise and go over budget. The Federal Council says a new referendum will leave Switzerland without an air force in 2030. “From 2030, the population will no longer be protected from air threats and dangers,” say, representatives of the Federal Council, supported by the Swiss Ministry of Defense.
Swiss democracy allows citizens to participate in important state decisions. New fighters for the Swiss Air Force are such a solution. In 2020, in a referendum, the Swiss decided to acquire the F-35 with very few votes in favor of the American fighter. The whole procedure went through many vicissitudes.
It all started in 2014 when the Swedish SAAB Gripen was offered for purchase. Then, in a referendum held, the Swiss rejected this choice. Two years later, a committee of experts was commissioned to evaluate new fighters. Thus, in 2020, again through a referendum, the Swiss government received permission from its citizens to purchase new fighter jets. But the referendum was not about the choice of a fighter, but a purchase authorization without specifying the exact model.
A little later, the Swiss government, with the help of the Ministry of Defense, selected Lockheed Martin’s price proposal for F-35 stealth fighters. Three other aircraft participated in the competition: Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo through the Eurofighter joint venture; Rafale, of the French company Dassault Aviation, and F/A-18 Super Hornet, of the American Boeing.
The Swiss government has approved a budget for future purchases. About 9 billion Swiss francs [$9.3 billion] were earmarked, including the purchase of a new air defense system and fighter jets, estimated at nearly 6 billion Swiss francs [$6.2 billion].
Thus comes the date of August 23, 2022, when 120,000 signatures for a new referendum were submitted for discussion. If the referendum is held, even if the F-35 is chosen as the future fighter of the Swiss Air Force, Switzerland risks falling behind in the queue to buy new fighters, as the production line at Lockheed Martin plants will be shifted. Currently, Finland, Germany, and Canada are the three countries whose aircraft are produced.