How to modernize Swiss Army (even without new planes !) – Part I/II

In Others by Sébastien FluryLeave a Comment

If you’re living in Switzerland, you’ve probably heard or read that citizens will have to say yes or no to 32 new planes, named « Gripen ». These flights will cost around CHF 3.2bn and around CHF 200M per year during 30 years (for maintenance, etc.). These engines will be built by a Swedish company, but there is no such plane currently flying (but that’s another story).

For more than 6 months, there is a big debate around this choice (not the right one, etc., etc.) and every Swiss citizen over 18 years can have its own expert judgement (that’s the magic of direct democracy we live in (s)Witzerland: everyone can be a military expert!). And it’s funny to see how some recent facts come with the right timing: 3 months ago, a flight was rerouted by a hijacker and landed in Geneva. What was ridiculous ? Swiss Air Force couldn’t be engaged, because it was… not during the office hours (08:00 – 12:00, 13:00-17:00) ! French and Italian Air Forces have escorted the plane.

The partisans of the « Gripen » have tried to leverage this fact to reinforce the necessity and urgency of buying these planes to have an Air Force that can be engaged 24/7. Even though the first plane will only be delivered to Switzerland in almost 5 (!) years. An other argument that I’ve heard is that Switzerland can only defend Swiss sky during 2.5 weeks with its current air fleet. In my humble opinion, it’s not a reasonable argument. First, it will still be more than 5 years before something change. And secondly, in which other country would you so openly declare to the world that you can only defend yourself during 2 weeks ?

Lastly, the most controversial argument, I think, is the fact that the Swedish airplane producer will have to mandate Swiss companies for the same amount of CHF 3.2bn. Good for Swiss companies ? It seems so, that these flights will be a goldmine and generate a lot of jobs in Switzerland. But the reality is that the last time Switzerland bought planes (in the early 90’s, with FA18), there was a similar promise. But only half of the amount (maximum!) was effectively invested back into Swiss companies. Is this an illusion? Where is the truth? Shouldn’t we directly invest this money in the Swiss economy?

You have probably already understood my choice. It is a no. I’m not against Swiss Army and not at all against my country (as some extremists will tell about people rejecting to buy these flights, as for half of Swiss people (minus 19’000 people) who said no on February 9th to the limitation of immigration). I am a pragmatic. We cannot afford buying such expensive planes while reducing the money available for education. Yes, it seems that every single week, our politicians are trying to spare on education. And as everyone knows, that’s the primary source of economical success of Switzerland: well educated brains!

There is at least one simple and more economical choice regarding these flights. Military experts say that it would cost around CHF 35M a year to increase the number of pilots and necessary staff to have an Air Force able to fly 24/7. Yes, one sixth of the yearly maintenance costs of these new flights. And 1% of the one-off investment.

If you have the possibility to express your opinion this Sunday, you should seize it. Yes or no, there’s a choice to be taken. Be mature, go voting. It’s too easy to criticize afterwards, especially if you have not voted.

In my second post on the topic, I’ll express a vision on how to modernize Swiss Army. And make it efficient. I’m not a military expert but have done my duties (and still am a soldier, for one week this year!). And I had so much time to think about it the inefficiencies of Swiss Army… So far, people only hear about why we need new material based on an old vision of the world. Switzerland is a hightech country, but ways behind others regarding its army. And that should change!