Switzerland Hasn’t Gone to War in 200 Years. Why Does It Need New Fighter Jets?
Swiss voters are about to decide the fate of their neutral country’s fighters.
BY KYLE MIZOKAMISEP 23, 2020
The people of Switzerland will vote later this month on the future of their country’s fleet of fighter jets. The Swiss Air Force would like to replace its aging F/A-18 Hornet fighters, but opponents cite the fact that Switzerland has enjoyed two centuries of peace and is surrounded by friendly countries, making new jets an unnecessary purchase. The country will vote on the issue on September 27.
Fighter jets are expensive, and even rich Switzerland doesn’t keep planes on alert 24/7. In 2014, critics ridiculed the Swiss Air Force after fighters from neighboring France and Italy escorted a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane to safety at Geneva international airport. The Swiss Air Force, it turned out, only worked normal business hours on weekdays and was closed on weekends. Reuters reports Switzerland has an agreement with nearby air forces to allow them to enter Swiss airspace during emergencies.
Forgoing fighter jets would save Switzerland a lot of money; the F-35A costs approximately $80 million up front and another $45,000 an hour to fly over the lifetime of the aircraft. Still, not having fighters for emergencies will erode the country’s national sovereignty, and it’s hard to see how a country that relies on neighbors to police its airspace can be truly neutral.