BERN --- At its meeting of 8 November 2017, the Federal Council took decisions in principle concerning the renewal of the means of protection of Swiss airspace. It is planned to acquire new combat aircraft and a new system of Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD), for a maximum cost of 8 billion francs.
In order to cope with these and other investments, the army's budget will have to be increased annually by 1.4% by 2021. The Federal Council has directed the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) to establish, by February 2018, several possible projects: a planning decree, a revision of the law on the army, the usual way of the message on the army, or other possibilities.
The current means of protection of the airspace will reach in the years to come the end of their service life. The 30 F / A-18 jets can be operated until around 2030. The 53 F-5 Tiger are, for their part, already no longer suited to operations, and only 26 of these aircraft still fly regularly. As for the ground-air defense systems, the end of their service life will be reached in 2025 at the latest.
For the Federal Council, it is clear that fighter aircraft and surface-to-air defenses are still necessary if Swiss airspace is to be effectively protected. Without an air defense, the Swiss population would, in the event of armed conflict, be left at the mercy of the aggressor. The engagement of ground troops would also have little chance of success. The Federal Council therefore considers that renouncing the renewal of airspace protection is not an option. Combat aircraft also cannot be replaced by drones, helicopters, training planes or other means - and this also applies to the air policing service.
Security Policy Requirements and Reasonable Costs
The Federal Council has decided to invest up to eight billion francs for the renewal of air defense assets. This financial framework should make it possible to achieve the desired capabilities while satisfying the requirements of the security policy. The cost will thus remain within the limits which the Federal Council considers reasonable and economically bearable.
Increase in the budget of the armed forces
In addition to the renewal of airspace protection means, other investments will have to be planned for the coming decades, in particular for the replacement of the main weapons systems of the ground troops, which will also soon reach the end of their service life. In total, 15 to 16 billion francs will be needed in the framework of the weapons programs from 2023 to 2032. With its current budget of some 5 billion francs a year, the army can invest one billion each year in the weapons program.
The Federal Council therefore wants to raise the military spending ceiling on an ongoing basis in the years to come, in order to be able to finance the necessary investments. The military budget will have to benefit from an annual growth rate of about 1.4%. The armed forces will also have to stabilize their operating costs so that most of the additional resources can be allocated to armaments.
Transparency in compensatory cases
The Federal Council is committed to the principle that foreign suppliers must compensate 100% of the value of a contract by placing orders with Swiss industry. Such orders serve the economy of our country, promote the creation of workplaces and allow Swiss companies to remain at the forefront of technology. In this context, it will be necessary to ensure maximum transparency on the conduct of compensatory cases. A register will show which Swiss companies have received mandates exceeding 100,000 francs.
The following steps
The DDPS is to prepare several alternative projects by February 2018.
Several possibilities must be examined. The first is a planning order within the meaning of art. 28, para. 2 and 3 of the Parliament Act. This order must specify the purpose of the renewal and explain why it requires the combination of combat aircraft and the ground-to-air defense system. It must also set the financial framework at 8 billion francs. This decree is subject to the optional referendum.
The second is a revision of the Armed Forces Act, adding a new article describing the protection of the airspace and the means required. This revision is also subject to the optional referendum.
The third possibility is the usual way through the message on the army. Other procedures can also be examined.
In addition, the DDPS is responsible for submitting requests for proposals to Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, Lockheed-Martin and Saab in the coming year. After a possible referendum, the Federal Council will be able to make, probably in 2020, its choice on the type of combat aircraft.
The aircraft should be delivered by 2025.
The evaluation and acquisition of a long-range ground-to-air defense system will be done in parallel.