Swiss voters will have a say on whether to buy new fighter jets – but not on the type of jet. The Federal Council said on Friday the issue would be put to the nation given the large amount of money involved and that it was an essential part of national security.
It added that the two previous projects to buy new jets – F/A-18s in 1993 and Gripen fighters in 2014 – had also been subject to a nationwide vote. The 22-plane Gripen contract was rejected by 53.4% of voters.
A vote is expected to be held by 2020 at the latest. The government said the type of plane will be decided after the vote.
In November, the Federal Council said it wanted to spend CHF8 billion ($8.4 billion) on new fighter jets and missile defences for the Swiss army. It tasked the defence ministry with looking at potential aircraft and has asked it to begin talks with Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, Lockheed Martin and Saab.
On Friday, the pacifist Switzerland Without an Army group criticised the government’s strategy as “undemocratic”, saying voters would know neither the cost nor number of planes – or indeed what the planes could even do. The group said it would start collecting signatures for a referendum against the purchase.