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Swiss parliament okays purchase of F-35 jets from US

Switzerland’s House of Representatives has approved the purchase of new F-35 fighter jets from the United States. The decision clears the path for Bern to sign the purchase contract, even though an initiative to prevent the deal has not been voted on by Swiss voters.

Keystone-SDA news agency reported on Thursday that the majority was convinced the contract should be signed by the bid closing date: March 30, 2023. The jet purchase is part of the Army’s 2022 budget, with the entire program worth CHF9.552 billion, two-thirds of which is earmarked for the F-35 jets from US firm Lockheed Martin.

One parliamentarian warned of inflation-related additional costs and delays in case of failure to do so because the F-35s are in a production slot. If the Swiss order falls out of this slot, “their” fighter jets would have to wait for the next one, explained Thomas Hurter, a pilot by training, of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party.

It was also noted that Switzerland would become somewhat dependent on the US for maintenance, but that would also apply to neighboring Italy and Germany, as well as other European customers. Moreover,  Swiss parliamentarians decided that F-5 Tiger jets may not be decommissioned as requested by the Swiss government.

Until the F-35 is flying in Switzerland, the 25 remaining Tigers in the Swiss Air Force can continue to perform tasks such as training.

On behalf of the finance committee, parliamentarian Alois Gmür stated that the purchase of the fighter jets was a fair deal and the funds earmarked fall within the financial policy framework. The Senate’s decision in June to increase the Swiss army budget by CHF300 million was considered justifiable.

Initiative disregarded

The F-35 opponents argued in vain that a tight nationwide vote in September 2020 with 50.1% of the population in favor of allocating CHF6 billion to procure fighters jets was not intended for the F-35. They felt the House of Representatives should have waited for the vote on the “Against the F-35 (Stop F-35)” initiative submitted in August.

The damage to direct democracy – the cherished national political system that allows Swiss voters a say in how the country is run  – would haunt parliament for a longtime argued parliamentarian Priska Seiler of the Social Democratic Party. Ida Glanzmann-Hunkeler of The Centre accused the left of the parliament of undemocratic behavior ignoring the will of the people. Marionna Schlatter of the Greens stated that Switzerland did not need attack aircraft and stealth bombers for use in enemy territory and that the people must be given the chance to express themselves on the issue.

Concerns were also raised that Switzerland would lose foreign policy advantages by turning down European fighter jet offers. At approximately CHF6 billion Swiss, the F-35 costs CHF2 billion less than the cheapest competing offer. Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd stressed that the US had repeatedly confirmed the contractually fixed price, even in the face of inflation.


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SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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