News Tech: GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland’s defense department said Wednesday that any delay to the planned multibillion-dollar acquisition of U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets would have “grave consequences” for Swiss security, after opponents succeeded in a campaign to put the purchase to a referendum.
The activists want the referendum to be held in March — the same month that the U.S. offer would expire. The Swiss defense department, addressing a meeting of the Swiss executive branch on Wednesday, argued that the timetable is simply too tight.
On Tuesday, the Swiss government announced that campaigners had cleared the bar of 100,000 signatures on a petition calling for a referendum on the planned purchase of 36 of the Lockheed Martin-built planes as part of a vast refurbishment of capability of the Swiss air force by 2030.
Opponents say the planes — at a purchase cost of about $6 billion — are too expensive, would tie Swiss security too closely to the United States, and are ill-suited for the needs of Switzerland. The Swiss air force mostly uses such fighters for air patrols in its European skies and not in conflicts abroad. The Swiss constitution holds that Switzerland is a neutral country, curtailing its ability to take part in foreign conflicts.