Swiss Government Eludes Referendum, Signs Deal to Buy 36 F-35s

Switzerland signed a deal to buy 36 F-35 fighters from the United States, dodging a popular referendum pushed by opposition. The government hopes to receive the new fighter jets by the end of the decade. The government has stated that the deal, worth  6.035 Swiss Francs ($6.25 billion), was signed on Monday. It includes 36 of the conventional takeoff-and-landing aircraft variant, due to replace the nation’s fleets of F/A-18 Hornets and F-5 Tigers between 2027 and 2030. The Swiss parliament voted last week to approve the procurement, which opened the door for the contract agreement.

Swiss defense officials also signed an offset agreement with F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which “forms the basis for the U.S. manufacturer to conduct offset businesses with the Swiss industry,” the government stated. Swiss companies could receive contracts with a volume of about 2.9 billion Swiss Francs (U.S. $3 billion).

The first eight F-35As will be manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Texas, where they will also be used to provide initial training for the Swiss pilots. At least 24 subsequent aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by Leonardo at the Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility in Italy.

Still, officials are contemplating if four of the aircraft could be assembled in Switzerland. If that is not possible, they will also be assembled in Italy.

Cameri production facility in Italy has built the Italian Air Force and Navy F-35A and F-35B variants, respectively. Its production line also services the F-35As for the Dutch Air Force.

Switzerland has been just one of many nations in Europe to select F-35s to upgrade its fleet. The aircraft was selected among other candidates including the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault’s Rafale and Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The Swiss government has been pushing to get the F-35 contract inked before the offer period ends next spring, amid efforts by the “Stop F-35” coalition to schedule a popular referendum to block the sale. The coalition, made up of Swiss socialist and Green Party members, gathered over 100,000 signatures to launch a referendum campaign after the 2021 fighter aircraft selection, but Bern has consistently lobbied to move the deal forward despite the referendum demand.

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