‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don’t want to buy American planes

‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don't want to buy American planes
F5 Tiger fighter jets of the Swiss Air Force (The "Patrouille Suisse") fly in formation. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss voters on Sunday narrowly approved a proposal to spend CHF6 billion on new fighter jets. But when it comes to where not to buy the aircraft, the Swiss populace are a little more decisive.

Only four percent of Swiss voters want the government to buy the jets from the United States. 

The results come from a poll taken by Switzerland’s Tamedia news organisation

The vote however is not based purely on opinions of the US president.

Social Democrat councillor Priska Seiler Graf said the major issue was that US manufacturers retain important security codes which could jeopardise the use of the jets in “extreme examples”. 

“There is always a dependency on the country of manufacture. But the US does not disclose its software codes. I have already been reprimanded for my statements in this regard, but I stand by it: In extreme cases, this means that the Americans can change the software codes and we can no longer access our jets.”

Graf, who was against the fighter jet initiative, said she would prefer the Swiss government to buy the jets from a European manufacturer, reports Swiss daily 20 Minutes

Lewin Lempert, from the Group for a Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA) – one of the major organisations who opposed the ultimately successful fighter jet referendum – said the poll shows “we (Switzerland) don’t want Trump jets”. 

FDP Council of States Thierry Burkart said the government, rather than the people, should decide where to purchase the jets. 

“Where to buy is the wrong question. The DDPS must first complete the evaluation,” Burkart said. 

“We need the most suitable aircraft to carry out the assignment. In addition to the price, the aircraft's autonomy is also a criterion. A political assessment can then be made. Anyone who does not want to shop in the USA because of Trump thinks in the short term.”

The US leader is unpopular in Switzerland, as he is in much of Europe. Polls taken from 2016 and 2017 saw a 25 percent fall in Swiss opinions of the United States after Trump's election. 

While only four percent wanted the government to buy the jets from the US, 31 percent said the decision should be up to the government. 

An additional 28 percent said the jets should be purchased from a European company like Airbus or Dassault, while 24 percent said they wanted another alternative. 

11 percent said they didn’t know. 

Fighter jets: A ‘yes’ by the thinnest of margins 

On the ballot Sunday was a referendum on dishing out six billion Swiss francs ($6.6 billion, 5.6 billion euros) for new fighter jets, which squeezed through with a mere 50.1 percent of votes in favour.

The vote was far closer than expected, with under 9,000 votes nationwide deciding the question. 

This should put an end to a more than decade-long debate about replacing Switzerland's ageing fleet of jets, although another vote could be held once the government determines which planes it is looking to buy.

In 2014, the country looked set to purchase 22 Gripen E fighter jets from Swedish group Saab, only to see the people vote against releasing the funds needed to go forward with the multi-billion-dollar deal.

 


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