AFP
6 billion $ referendum: Aircraft for Swiss Air Force

6 billion $ referendum: Aircraft for Swiss Air Force December 24, 2019

The Swiss parliament on Friday approved the purchase of new fighter jets for around $6 billion, but the Socialist Party immediately demanded the question be put to a referendum. Switzerland began seeking replacements for its ageing fleet of fighter jets more than a decade ago. In 2014, the country looked set to purchase 22 Gripen E fighter jets from Swedish group Saab. But Bern has not given up on its quest to boost its fleet, with the government warning that the country's F/A-18s will reach the end of their lifespan in 2030. Switzerland also has a fleet of F-5 Tiger jets, built by US group Northrop Grumman, but they are not equipped for night flights.

To remedy the problem, the government has proposed to release up to 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.1 billion, 5.1 billion euros) for a new fleet of jets. After several weeks of debate, both chambers of the Swiss parliament, which together tilt to the centre-right, approved the plan Friday. The leftwing Socialist Party, however, baulked at what is considered a far too high amount, insisting that "Switzerland does not need luxury fighter jets."

As part of Switzerland's direct democratic system, the party launched a campaign to gather enough signatures to put the issue to a referendum. They are expected to succeed, and the referendum would likely be held next September, according to the ATS news agency. The vote would however only touch on whether or not the people are in favour of replacing Switzerland fighter jet fleet. If they agree, the choice of the jet will fall to the government.

Lockheed Martin F-35, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, France Rafale and Eurofighter Airbus aircraft compete for the tender. Swedish Saab wanted to take part at bidding but failed.

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