Swiss citizens today voted to approve the purchase of CHF6 billion ($6.4 billion) worth new fighter by the country’s air force that had been challenged to a referendum by pacifists and left-wing political parties.
The majority (50.2%) of Swiss voters gave the go-ahead to the purchase of new combat aircraft on Sept. 27, 2020. The referendum called the citizens to say yes or no to a government-backed plan 6.49B USD funding packet to find a replacement for the F-5 Tiger and F/A-18C/D Hornet jets currently in service with the Swiss Air Force.
It was the third nationwide vote in almost 30 years about the purchase of new combat aircraft for the Swiss air force. The latest attempt was in 2014 when a referendum rejected the acquisition of the Saab Gripen (to replace the F-5E).
The Swiss Air Force launched “Air 2030” program aimed to the selection of its future fighter and, as part of the program, the air arms carried out the evaluation of four candidate aircraft: the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, and the Lockheed Martin F-35. A fifth candidate, Gripen E, was retired before its evaluation initially planned for the end of June 2019, after the Swiss procurement agency, “formally recommended” that Saab stayed home as flight tests had been designed to only evaluate aircraft that were operationally ready in 2019.
Parliament has given its approval for the government’s plans to modernise Switzerland’s air defence capabilities. It is the third nationwide vote in almost 30 years about the acquisition of new military aircraft for the Swiss air force, Swissinfo.ch reported.
The latest attempt to modernize Switzerland’s air defence, including its fleet of F-5 Tiger aircraft and the F/A-18 jets, was initiated by the government four years ago.
A majority of parliament approved the CHF6 billion credit to purchase up to 40 fighter jets by 2030, with the type of aircraft to be decided by the government at a later stage. Bids by four companies from the United States, France and Germany have been shortlisted.
The pro-fighter jet citizens won by a margin of just 9,000 votes with 50.2% of voters in favor of the CHF6 billion ($6.49 billion) funding packet and 49.8% voting against.
The victory in the referendum gives the go-ahead for the procurement of a new aircraft type to replace the Swiss Air Force’s (SAF) Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II and Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fleets.
Commercial and offset offers from the bidding companies- Lockheed Martin (F-35A), Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Dassault (Rafale) and Airbus (Eurofighter Typhoon)- are due in November 2020. The SAF intends to eventually buy up to 40 aircraft.
With today’s vote, the SAF is expected to keep to its original fighter procurement schedule of contract award by 2022 and deliveries from 2025.