Swiss group campaigns against purchase of US fighter jets 

The Swiss parliament still has to approve the funding for the purchase. The debate is scheduled for early next year. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

The Swiss government’s decision to buy F-35A jets from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin could be challenged in a popular vote if critics get enough signatures.  

This content was published on August 23, 2021

The Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GSoA) began collecting signatures on Monday, the first step in a lengthy process that could culminate with a people’s initiative under the country’s system of direct democracy, which allows citizens to weigh in on policy decisions. 

“The F-35 has many technical problems, is completely oversized for Switzerland’s needs and is extremely expensive,” GSoA said in a statement. “Moreover, with this fighter plane, the US secret services will always be on board. This choice is therefore absolutely scandalous from a democratic point of view.” 

At least 100,000 signatures must be gathered within 18 months for an interest group to bring their issue to a national vote. There must be a “double majority” – a majority of voters and a majority of cantons – for an initiative to pass. The GSoA vowed to make the “luxury fighter jet crash at the ballot box!” 

Winning bid 

Costing just over CHF5 billion ($5.4 billion), the F-35A jets are under the CHF6 billion budget narrowly approved by Swiss voters last September. The GSoA has led the opposition against the purchase, which has also been questioned by the left-wing Green Party and Social Democratic Party.  

On June 30 the Swiss government asked parliament to approve the procurement of 36 F-35A fighter aircraft from Lockheed Martin, arguing they “offered the highest overall benefit at the lowest cost”. The F-35A beat out Boeing’s Super Hornet and European competitors Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale. 

Defence Minister Viola Amherd has said she would like to have the contract with Lockheed Martin finalised by the end of 2021. 

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