BERN --- The Federal Council wants the army to protect our country against air attacks, also in future. The current fighter planes will reach the end of their useful life by 2030 at the latest. In order to ensure the continued protection of the country and its population, the Federal Council wants to renew the defense of airspace.
At its meeting of June 26, 2019, the Federal Council approved a message to Parliament concerning a planning decree for the acquisition of new fighter jets. This is to give the population the opportunity to vote on their acquisition by taking a vote in principle.
The Federal Council has made several pronouncements in recent years on the acquisition of new fighter jets. On May 15, 2019, it decided that the possibility of a referendum on the principle of the purchase of new fighter jets should be offered by means of a planning order of Parliament. The Federal Council has also laid down the essential elements of this planning decree and instructed the DDPS to quickly submit a message.
Elements of the planning order
The Federal Council has therefore approved the said message and the draft planning order for Parliament. The order deals with the following elements:
• The Federal Council is responsible for renewing the means of protecting the airspace by acquiring new fighter jets. Their service introduction must be completed by the end of 2030.
• The financial envelope for this acquisition should not exceed CHF 6 billion (based on the consumer price index for January 2018).
• The foreign companies that will be awarded contracts in the context of this acquisition will have to compensate 60% of the contract value by granting contracts in Switzerland (offsets), of which 20% will be direct and 40% indirect, in the security-related technological and industrial sectors.
• The acquisition will be the subject of a submission to the Federal Assembly as part of an annual armaments program.
• The acquisition of new fighter jets will be coordinated, both technically and in terms of time-frame, with that of the long-range air defense system.
• This decree is subject to referendum.
Protection against aerial attacks: a major issue
Arms acquisitions are usually decided by the Federal Assembly, without a possible referendum. For the acquisition of new fighter jets, the Federal Council wants to allow a referendum, since this is a question of major importance.
• Current aircraft are nearing the end of their service life. If they are not replaced in time, Switzerland will no longer be able to protect, much less defend, its airspace after 2030, and the military will no longer be able to fulfill the tasks for which it is responsible under the Constitution and the law on the armed forces. Protection against air attacks - whether by armed forces or terrorist groups - is a crucial issue for our State, one of whose essential tasks is to ensure the security of Switzerland and its people.
• The political importance of the acquisition is underscored by the fact that the last two fighter aircraft acquisition projects resulted in popular ballots: in 1993, on the basis of an initiative, and in 2014, on the basis of a referendum. If it does not result in a right to a referendum, it nevertheless gives rise to an expectation that must be taken into account politically.
The project will extend over more than ten years, which requires as much security as possible in its planning. This is why the Federal Council intends to involve Parliament and the public in this process as soon as possible.
If Parliament adopts the planning decree and the referendum request is accepted, citizens will be able to decide on the principle, namely the acquisition or not; of new fighter jets to replace all current fighter jets (30 F/A-18 C/D and 26 F-5 E/F).
The choice of the combat aircraft to be acquired will then be made by the Federal Council. This procedure was the subject of a motion tabled by Parliament.
Parallel acquisition of the ground-to-air defense system
It is planned to acquire the new long-range ground-to-air defense system in the usual way, without the possibility of a referendum. Due to obvious correlations, the acquisition will be in parallel with that of the combat aircraft, according to the same schedule and the same technical aspects.
The Federal Council is planning a total of CHF 8 billion for the new means of protecting the airspace. This will be complemented by acquisitions for other parts of the military, including land forces, cyber defense and driving systems.
For the financing of all these projects, the Federal Council grants the armed forces a budget growth rate of around 1.4% per year.