BERN --- Our land forces need to better adapt to ever-changing conflicts. They need equipment that allows for more mobile and modular engagement. This is the path adopted by the Federal Council in its meeting of May 15, 2019 for the long-term evolution of our troops. This decision is based on a report from the DDPS.
The realization of the DEVA (Development of the Army) project, launched in early 2018, aims to adapt the army's structure to the current and medium-term threat. The next step will be the renewal of the means available to Switzerland to defend against an air threat. At the same time, we will progressively reinforce cyber defense. But it will also be necessary to modernize the land forces within ten to fifteen years, hence the decision of principle taken by the Federal Council.
It will also be necessary to modernize the ground forces
This decision is based on the report on the future of land forces that the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) has submitted to the Federal Council. It shows how the threat and the environment are changing, as well as the form of the conflicts. A crisis situation can gradually turn into an armed conflict (hybrid conflict). The clash takes place on the ground, in the air, and also in cyberspace. It involves influence operations and the participation of non-state actors. Land forces very often intervene in urban centers, in urban areas, in the middle of the population.
The report indicates which systems will expire around 2030, including grenadier tanks, armored howitzers, exploration vehicles, later also the battle tanks. In view of the threat analysis and the financial framework issue, the military should not proceed with a full replacement. What capabilities need to be sustained over the long term to address multifaceted threats and protect the country and its people? From these essential abilities will depend the material to be acquired.
Specifically, the report proposes three options for a long-term vision of land forces, while quantifying the related investment, regardless of the renewal of air defense assets:
-- Option 1 prepares the army for inter-state armed conflicts. The investment is of the order of ten billion Swiss francs. Tracked armored vehicles will be replaced by modern vehicles of the same type.
-- Option 2 is more about hybrid conflicts. The investment is five and a half to six billion francs. Land forces will be equipped with lighter, well-protected, but more mobile and versatile systems.
-- Option 3 is Option 2 combined with an increase in the regulatory strength from 100,000 to 120,000. The investment can go up to nine billion francs. The army's ability to last under prolonged tension is enhanced, and more assets can be protected simultaneously.
Adaptation to new forms of conflict
On the proposal of the DDPS, the Federal Council has decided to continue the long-term development of land forces under Option 2, both in terms of support for civilian authorities and in defense in the context of a armed conflict. Preference will be given to more mobile, versatile and standard systems for engagement training.
The advantage is that the focus is on the capabilities needed in case of hybrid conflict. Land forces will therefore be better prepared for engagement in urban areas, typical for Switzerland. In doing so, however, the army gives up much of its ability to provide a mobile defense off the axes. The Federal Council considers that this is justified since it can be assumed that an adversary would act remotely - both for the recognition and for the attack - against the formations thus engaged.
Funding from the army budget
Unlike the others, option 2 can be implemented by the only financial means that the Federal Council has already provided for the army. The intention is to harmonize the modernization of land forces and the renewal of airspace protection. For the years 2023 to 2032, the estimate is one and a half billion francs a year, covering both parts. About 1 billion francs a year has already been budgeted for this type of investment. The Federal Council has forecast a real growth rate of 1.4% per year to fill the financing gap.
Click here for the report on the Future of the Armed Forces (152 PDF pages, in French), on the DDPS website.