Switzerland is to hold another national referendum on its planned future fighter procurement, although voters will not be given the choice on the particular aircraft type to be fielded.
The Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) said on 9 March that voters will be asked if the country should proceed with a programme to replace the air force’s ageing fighters with a new aircraft, but unlike the previous referendum on the issue held in 2014 the type-selection will take place after the vote.
According to national media SWI, which disclosed the terms of the new referendum, a vote on a wider CHF8 billion (USD8.4 billion) defence procurement programme to include the new fighters is expected to be held by 2020 at the latest.
The decision to hold the type-selection after the referendum follows the experience of May 2014, when about 53% of the Swiss population voted not to fund the procurement of 22 Saab Gripen E fighters, which at that time were valued at CHF2.2 billion.
The Swiss are routinely asked to decide on defence procurement issues, and more often than not they vote in favour of what is being asked. In the case of the Gripen E vote, that particular aircraft came in for a lot of criticism in the national media ahead of the referendum, including being disparagingly referred to a the ‘IKEA fighter’ on account of its Swedish origin. So while the ‘No’ vote in that instance appeared to have been directed at the Gripen E in particular, it scuppered the air force’s entire effort to replace its increasingly unserviceable Northrop F-5E/F fleet.
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