Switzerland could set up a popular vote on US fighter jets purchase

Opponents of the purchase of American F-35A fighter jets by Switzerland filed an initiative on August 16 with the authorities to organize a popular vote on the subject. The left-wing Stop-F35 alliance has filed the signatures with the Federal Chancellery in Bern, which will now verify that there are indeed 100,000 valid ones, as required by law. The Federal Council (government) will then have to set the date for the vote.

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Switzerland could set up a popular vote on US fighter jets purchase F-35A Lightning II  (Picture source: USAF)

"With this initiative, only the question of the type of aircraft is in question. If Switzerland decides for another jet, the initiative will be withdrawn", indicates the alliance, on its website.

The government decided at the end of June 2021 to acquire 36 F-35As from the American manufacturer Lockheed Martin. In September 2020, the Swiss narrowly approved, in a popular vote, an envelope of 6 billion francs (5.6 billion euros) to allow the air forces to acquire a new fleet.

While the Swiss government asserts that the aircraft was by far the best, at the lowest price of all the jets competing for the contract (Rafale, F/A-18 and Eurofighter), the countless technical difficulties and budget overruns of the program F-35s in the United States prompted two parliamentary committees to launch an investigation into the choice of aircraft.

However, the government announced in May that it wanted to speed up the purchase process, with the US offer expiring at the end of March 2023, suggesting that Bern does not intend to wait for the result of the popular vote.

"The Federal Councilor [in charge of Defence], Viola Amherd, wants to buy the F-35 already in September, while the contracts only expire in March. The Federal Council and Parliament must now put everything in place works to allow a popular vote and an urgent and necessary public debate on the largest arms contract in Swiss history", asks the Stop-F35 alliance.

Seen from the outset as an export product intended to ensure Washington's dominance in the combat aircraft market, the F-35 was the subject of a partnership with eight countries, including the United Kingdom, each receiving a share of work according to his investment. Planes destined for Switzerland would essentially be built in Italy.

Recently, Greece and Germany have joined the list of countries that want to acquire the device, already purchased by the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Poland.