Switzerland’s government cut a deal to buy 36 Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jets for CHF 6,035 billion, but there is opposition to the purchase in some political quarters and a referendum has been launched to stop it. However, the deal expires on 31 March 2022 and a new deal is likely to be more expensive so the government is moving forward despite the impending vote. On 15 September 2022, a majority of parliament ratified the deal.
This week, Switzerland’s parliament voted on the purchase of the jets. 128 versus 67 voted in favour of the deal. The Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house, has already cleared the deal put together by the Federal Council. This means the purchase agreement is almost certain to be signed before the question is put to voters.
The American F-35A is the right plane for Switzerland, Jacqueline de Quattro, a parliamentarian from the PLR/FDP told RTS. It is the cheapest and best from a technological perspective, she said. It is also the most widely used plane across NATO and the EU.
Many Socialist and Green Party members are against the purchase. Marionna Schlatter, a parliamentarian from the Green Party, argues the deal makes Switzerland too dependant on the United States and the country does not need an aircraft that could carry a nuclear bomb for NATO. According to Pierre-Alain Fridez, a parliamentarian from the Socialist Party, the Federal Council promised an aircraft for the military police, not a stealth plane for bombing enemy territory. Fridez also said the the aircraft remains in development until 2030 and has a number of defects.
According to Viola Amherd, Switzerland’s minister of defence, to avoid a lack airspace protection the Federal Council can now sign the acquisition contract without delay, the latest date being before 31 March 2023 when the current offer expires. When pressed for a contract signing date by RTS reporters, Amherd said in the coming weeks.
The first F-35A would arrive in Switzerland in 2025. The deal will be the largest military purchase Switzerland has ever made.