Faced with a referendum on its F-35 deal, the Swiss Ministry of Defense warned that a delay would have “serious consequences”
Militarily neutral Switzerland is embroiled in a national controversy over its planned $6.2 billion purchase of US F-35A fighter jets, prompting defense officials to say any delay in the deal would have “serious consequences” for the security of the country.
Wednesday’s statement from the Ministry of Defense in Bern comes a day after the Swiss government confirmed that the organizers of a “Stop F-35” initiative had gathered the 100,000 valid petition signatures needed to force a referendum on the issue. Campaigners have called for the vote to be held in March, the same month as the government’s deadline to complete its 36-plane contract with US defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
The Swiss Department of Defense told the Federal Council of the Nation that the proposed timetable for the referendum was not feasible because the executive and parliament would not have enough time to “treat” the message sent by voters before Lockheed’s offer expired.
“The message must be sent to Parliament by the winter session”, the the department said in a report. “A delay in the acquisition of the F-35A would have serious consequences for the security of Switzerland.”
Part of the worry is that other countries – including Germany, Finland and Canada – are lining up to buy F-35s amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Switzerland could be pushed back to the back of the pack, and perhaps have to pay a higher price, if they had to start a new contract with Lockheed. The Swiss army is rushing to modernize its air defenses by 2030.
However, the “Stop F-35” The coalition – which includes the Swiss Social Democratic Party, the Green Party and an anti-military group – has argued that US-made attack jets are too expensive and unsuitable for the military. defence-oriented Swiss air. Military neutrality is enshrined in the Swiss constitution, so the country’s air force is mostly limited to patrolling the skies in its own region. Critics have also suggested that relying on the F-35A would entangle Swiss national security too closely with Washington.
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The Swiss government chose the F-35A last year, after also evaluating the French Rafale fighter jet, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is being built by a group of four country led by Airbus.