The Swiss government’s request to parliament to approve procurement of 36 F-35As from Lockheed Martin
Last week, GSoA began collecting signatures for a “people’s initiative” (referendum) on the decision to buy American stealth fighters. GSoA, which has allied with the the left-wing Swiss Green Party and Social Democratic Party in opposition to the purchase, will need to amass 100,000 signatures within the next 18 months to bring the issue to a national vote. As of August 31, 4,123 people had signed GSoA’s “Stop The F-35” initiative form.
In its campaign, GSoA makes five arguments against acquisition of the stealth fighters, stringing together points it has made previously during the evaluation of the F-35A against Airbus’ Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, and Dassault’s Rafale. Similar points were made during the 2020 referendum on restating Switzerland’s “Air 2030” upgrade program.
For a start, GSoA claims that Lockheed’s Lightning II is “oversized” for the job, contending that it “shoots far beyond the target as a stealth aircraft for bombing raids. Instead of practicality, it is massively oversized: an overpriced luxury toy for some army officers.”
The Swiss Federal Council’s price analysis is called into question with GSoA asserting that the Canadian government has put the lifetime cost of the F-35 at five times the reported $5.5 billion cost of the purchase.
The fighter is described as “error prone”, GSoA claiming it has more than 800 known defects, “almost a dozen of which are so serious that they can lead to the crash of the plane or otherwise become life-threatening for the pilots.”
According to the organization, the F-35 is also unsuitable for protecting Switzerland given that the runways it uses could be destroyed by drones and guided missiles from a “great distance”, paralyzing the entire Swiss Air Force within minutes. Presumably this would apply to the Typhoon, Super Hornet and Rafale too.
Lastly, GSoA claims that Swiss F-35s will be subject to American surveillance, saying the “the US secret service will always be in the F-35 cockpit” and that there’s a risk that Switzerland’s Lightnings will be used to do more than protect Swiss airspace, contravening its tradition of neutrality.
The initiative doesn’t come as a surprise to Lockheed Martin. In an interview after the Swiss Federal Council’s decision was made public, Lockheed’s Switzerland F-35 campaign manager, Jim Robinson, told Forbes “We understand that there are people in Switzerland who are unhappy with this decision.”
In a piece published yesterday, Swiss newspaper, Tages Anzeiger, pointed out that the narrow Swiss approval (50.1%) for going forward with Air 2030 may not have been granted if it were known that the F-35 would be the eventual choice.
Swiss defense minister, Viola Amherd, recently told the country’s press she would like to have the contract with Lockheed Martin finalized by the end of 2021. The F-35’s manufacturer would almost certainly agree since a contract would at least give it a legal foothold with the Swiss 14 months before a possible vote on ditching the airplane.
A Lockheed Martin spokesperson reaffims that the company “is committed to the F-35 program for Switzerland,” adding that any information regarding the procurement “can best be addressed by the Swiss government.”
For the Stop The F-35 initiative to pass, Swiss law requires a “double majority”. A majority of voters and a majority of cantons must agree. The probability of that happening is likely low. But with a year-and-a-half left, and the possibility that American F-35s in action somewhere in the world during that interval could affect public opinion, GSoA could reach the signature threshold.
If it does, it just may crash the F-35.