This week, the Federal Council said it is considering accelerating the purchase of 36 F-35 fighter jets, expressing concern that the current deal might not be maintained beyond its 31 March 2023 expiration, reported RTS. Prices and delivery dates, currently 2027, may have to be renegotiated at less favourable terms, according to a Council of States security policy commission looking at the matter.
The decision to purchase the jets to update Switzerland’s fleet of ageing Tiger jets has become hot politics. A group of politicians on the left strongly opposed to spending billions on the jets is busy collecting signatures to launch a vote against the federal government’s plan. The problem is that launching and running a referendum takes time, time that some feel is running out.
Since the war started in Ukraine demand for the American F-35 has risen. Germany, Finland and Canada have joined the queue to buy the aircraft.
However, those behind the “Stop F-35” vote are crying foul. One of the vote organisers, parliamentarian Fabien Fivaz, described the idea as anti-democratic.
The Federal Council would also like to see the military budget increased by CHF 300 million in 2023 with further increases in future years to bring spending up to 1% of GDP by 2030.
Switzerland currently spends around CHF 5 billion on its military, around 0.8% of GDP. In 2020, the US spent 3.7% of GDP on its military. The UK (2.2%), France (2.1%), Italy (1.6%) and Germany (1.4%) all spent significantly more of their GDP than Switzerland on military in 2020, according to World Population Review.
Jacqueline de Quattro, a parliamentarian in favour of higher spending told RTS that military budgets in Switzerland had been cut for several decades. Now, with the war in Ukraine, we see priorities changing, she said. We need to invest massively to make up lost ground.
In a poll run in March 2022, a majority of Swiss said they were in favour of Switzerland purchasing new F-35 fighter jets to update their fleet of ageing Tiger jets. When asked how they would vote in a referendum aimed at cancelling the purchase of new F-35 fighter jets, around 60% said they would vote against it. The poll showed clear majorities among UDC/SVP, PLR/FDP, Centre and Liberal Green voters. Even among Socialist voters the poll found only 50% supported cancelling the order for the new jets.