Switzerland. When thinking about this small country located in the middle of Europe, many people start connecting it with cheese, chocolate, money, the Matterhorn and its neutrality. There are also people around the world who think that we’re the guys who invented IKEA but just to be very clear on this: If we would have invented IKEA, the user manuals would have been way easier to understand.
In Switzerland, we have a pretty unique political system. Here is a short explanation because this is important to understand for the main story of this topic. As in many other countries, we elect our parliament every four years. But in addition to that, we have four popular votes every year. If a citizen or a party manages to collect 100‘000 signatures during a certain period of time, the subject will be part of such a vote. If it’s accepted, it will be written in our constitution, even if the parliament and government are against it. The same happens, if a citizen or a party manages to collect 50‘000 signatures against a law, parliament just passed. The law won’t entry into force, if the majority of the citizens are against it. The people basically have always the last word.
And here is where this story beginns.
The Swiss and their Air Force
The Swiss Air Force was founded in 1914 after World War I. Their task was the same as it is today: Defending Switzerland and its airspace. In the early years, they flew locally build Swiss planes, German Messerschmidts as well as British Vampire jets.
Today, they use F-5 Tigers, F/A 18 Hornets, as well as Pilatus PC-21, PC-7 and PC-9 for training.
In 1992, the Swiss parliament voted to buy those F/A 18 jets, after they bought the F-5 in 1975. Here began the first troubles. There was a groupe called „Switzerland without an army“. They started to collect signatures against this bill, and they were successful. In 1993, there was a popular vote whether the F/A 18 should actually be bought or not. 57.1% voted in favor for the new jets so the government bought 34 new Hornets. They are still in use today.
And here’s the new problem: The F-5 Tigers as well as the F/A 18 Hornets need to be replaced soon, because they’re getting old. The government decided in 2013 that the Saab Gripen should be the new jet for the Swiss Air Force. Yet again, some people were not very happy with that decision. They started to collect signatures again and in 2014, the Swiss voted against the new jets. The main argument was, that they were to expensive.
So what’s todays situation: According to the military and government, the Swiss Air Force needs new planes. Urgently. Otherwise, there’ll come the day, when they cannot secure the airspace anymore.
Last week, they presented a new plan:
They want to try to buy new jets again. This time though, the Swiss people won’t get the possibility to decide, what jet shall be bought. We will only vote whether new jets actually will be bought or not. This popular vote will take place in 2019 or 2020. If the Swiss will vote not to buy new jets it will be a catastrophe for the Air Force. They won’t be allowed to buy new planes, which means that they only can use the more than 40 year old F-5, as well as the more than 20 year old F/A 18 Hornets. And they won’t be able to fly forever.
The first consequence will probably be, that a 24/7 service won’t be possible anymore. The 24/7 service of the Air Force isn’t very old though. In 2014, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702 was hijacked by its Copilot. He landed the plane in Geneva at 6am. Since the Swiss Air Force was only fully operational during office hours by that time, the plane was being escorted by French and Italian planes. There was a big discussion afterwards and steps were taken to make sure, that the Air Force will be fully operational 24/7.
Imagine this situation taking place in a country like the United States. Imagine if US citizens had the power to decide, whether their Air Force should get new planes and thus whether their Air Force should exist in the future or not.
Direct Democracy goes that far. The Swiss will decide whether their Air Force will have a future. It’s going to be a thrilling time of campaigning.
What do you guys think about this story? Do you think its good, that the citizens of a country can actually decide what they want, or do you think its better that some topics are being decided without public’s consent?
This topic turned out much longer than I thought it would. I hope you found it interesting to read and to learn something about the Air Force of another country.
Have a great day or night, and Happy Landings!