Parliament seals the quick purchase of the new fighter jets
Switzerland will now definitely sign the contracts for the new fighter jets by next March. Parliament has given the green light for this. The “Stop F-35” initiative has thus degenerated into a farce.
Parliament gives the F-35 fighter jet a good boost. The National Council sealed the rapid purchase of the new aircraft for 6 billion Swiss francs on Thursday. The Federal Council must sign the procurement contracts with the US government for the 36 aircraft by the end of March at the latest. This is what the National Council wrote in the Army Message 2022 – as the Council of States did before it. The decision was made at the urging of the GLP, Mitte, FDP and SVP.
The bourgeois party does not want to wait for the vote on the “Stop F-35” initiative, which wants to prevent the purchase of the planes. For them it is all about the time factor. Thomas Hurter (SVP/SH) emphasized that if Switzerland does not sign by the end of March, there is a risk of renegotiations, delays and additional costs.
The Commission spokesman also put forward security policy arguments. Without renewal of the air force, the army would be “grounded”. For the supporters, it is important to implement the will of the people quickly. In the fall of 2020, the electorate voted very thinly to buy new fighter jets. In the end, 8000 votes made the difference. The bourgeois alliance therefore considers the referendum to be “constraint”. Melanie Mettler (GLP/BE) emphasized that voting again would be tantamount to a repetition.
Doubts about procurement process
The Ratslefte did not accept this. “Why are you so afraid of the referendum,” asked Priska Seiler Graf (SP / ZH). Marionna Schlatter (Greens/ZH), on the other hand, assured that a vote on the type of aircraft would have turned out differently. In addition, the F-35 is the wrong aircraft. “We don’t need a stealth bomber for the Air Police.”
SP and Greens also have doubts about the financial framework and the evaluation process. Franziska Roth (SP/SO) referred to the assessment of the Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO). This questions the fact that Switzerland – as claimed by the Defense Department (DDPS) – has negotiated a fixed price.
The federal financial auditors also recommended that Switzerland seek an exchange of experience with other countries that have already procured the F-35. Sarah Wyss (SP/BS) criticized that it was “incomprehensible” that the DDPS was blocking this recommendation.
According to the GPK, the evaluation was lawful
In their arguments, the supporters refer to the report published last week by the National Council’s Control Committee (GPK). The supervisory authority had come to the conclusion that the evaluation procedure had been carried out lawfully. “The facts speak for the purchase of this combat aircraft,” said Bruno Walliser (SVP / ZH). The F-35 is the best, cheapest and most economical aircraft.
However, the GPK criticized the communication in the Federal Palace. Defense Minister Viola Amherd informed too late about the type decision. Nevertheless, various departments negotiated solutions in other dossiers with manufacturer countries until the very end. France, for example, was snubbed in this way.
Amherd defended himself against these allegations in the National Council. “We have not hidden any information.” As soon as the evaluation report was completed, she informed her colleagues in the Bundesrat. The defense minister repeated the statement she had made to CH Media in January.
defeat for initiates
The decision for the left-wing fighter jet opponents from the ranks of the SP, Greens and the group for a Switzerland without an army (GSoA) is bitter. Just last month, the initiators announced that they had enough signatures for the referendum. The election is now likely to become a farce.
The collection of signatures was not under a lucky star right from the start. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, SVP and FDP asked the initiators to stop the collection. Even Federal Councilor Amherd called on the “Stopp F-35” alliance to stop collecting – and received a lot of criticism for their actions in Swiss political history. As recently as February, the Federal Council had assured that it would first wait for the initiative to take effect before signing the procurement contracts.
National Council campaigns for Tiger fleet
The National Councilor shows a heart for the Patrouille Suisse aerobatic team. In order for the squadron to be able to continue flying with the usual aircraft, the F-5 Tiger fleet is to remain in operation for longer. The Federal Council wants to phase out the jets because they are outdated. Militarily, Switzerland no longer needs the F-5 Tiger, explained Defense Minister Amherd.
Maja Riniker (FDP/AG) placed the continued operation of the fleet in a different context. The Tiger would have to stay in the air longer to provide critical services to the F-18 jet.
For the council left these are excuses. “A bit of nostalgia and a bit of a search for meaning,” Schlatter teased. She reminded the bourgeois side of the contradiction to their own credo: “Every franc must be invested for our security.”
Saving efforts torpedoed
In doing so, Parliament is leaving the Federal Council out in the cold and torpedoing its austerity efforts. The longer operation of the fleet does not come for free. The state government considers the costs to be disproportionate to the benefits. In addition to investments of 9 million francs, it estimates annual operating expenses at 25 million.
The National Council also failed to listen to Federal Councilor Amherd’s assurance that alternatives for the continued existence of the Patrouille Suisse would be examined. In vain: After the Council of States, the National Council did not change its mind either. The decision was made by 104 votes to 89 with 2 abstentions.