Many people in Switzerland, a country which has not fought a war in 200 years, are convinced there is no military threat now, nor in the foreseeable future. Swiss voters therefore, in 2014, blocked the government’s $3.5 billion deal to replace its fleet of Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters with 22 Gripen fighter jets from Saab.
Vested commercial interests and the Swiss upper and lower houses of parliament backed the deal, mounting a campaign of expensive advertisements favour of buying the jets, but despite this public relations onslaught, Swiss Socialists, Greens and the Group for Switzerland without an Army secured a referendum by collecting the 50,000 signatures needed.
Reuters reported that around 53.4% voted against the government’s proposal and twelve cantons rejected the creation of a fund for the acquisition – the no vote was especially strong in the west of the country.
Andreas Weibel of the Group for Switzerland without an Army, emphasises that only in Switzerland do people have a direct say in their country’s military procurement.
Two years later, however, as Flight Global records, a second effort will be made to acquire these new fighter planes: defence minister Guy Parmelin has announced that a study into the acquisition of a new fighter will be submitted to parliament in 2017.