The United States and a dozen other nations currently operate, or will soon operate, the Lockheed Martin Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. While it is still unclear if the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will actually be allowed to purchase the fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-35 could be flying over the Swiss Alps in a few years as the U.S. State Department approved the sale to the long-standing neutral power.
The announcement came last week, just days after the Alpine nation's plans to renew its fighter fleet with American-built aircraft was narrowly approved by a national referendum that passed with just 50.1% approval, a margin of just 8,670 votes.
The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has also notified Congress about the sales.
"This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly European nation that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe," the DSCA said in a statement.
The New and Improved Swiss Air Force
Switzerland has sought to purchase forty of the F-35A variants and related equipment in a deal worth about $6.58 billion; along with an additional forty F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft and related equipment worth an estimated $7.452 billion. According to Airforce-Technology the deal would include thirty-six of the F/A-18E single-seat variants along with 72 F414-GE-400 engines installed; and four F/A-18F tandem-seat variants with eight F4140GE-400 engines installed.
Additionally, the deal for the Super Hornets would include sixteen spare engines, forty-four M61A2 20mm gun systems, twenty-five advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR)/other targeting pod, 55 AN/ALR-67(V)3 Electric Warfare Countermeasures Receiving sets and 55 AN/ALQ-214 Integrated Countermeasures systems.
For the F-35 deal, Switzerland requested forty of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft, forty-six Pratt & Whitney F-135 engines, forty Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II+ (Plus) Tactical Missiles, fifty Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II Captive Air Training Missiles (CATMs) and six Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II Special Air Training Missiles (NATMS).
The State Department also pre-cleared Switzerland to purchase five Patriot air defense systems with an estimated cost of $2.2 billion.
Switzerland hasn't participated in a foreign war since its neutrality was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1815, and that fact was agreed upon by the major European powers at the time during the Congress of Vienna. During World War II the country was accidentally bombed by the Allies, and had Germany's fortunes gone another way it likely would have been invaded by the Nazis at some point.
Despite its neutrally, Switzerland has maintained a reasonable military and service in the armed forces is compulsory.
The Swiss Air Force currently consists of three squadrons and it currently operates approximately thirty F/A-18 Hornets, and fifty three F-5 Tiger IIs. Because of the size of the country, the Swiss Air Force has not routinely maintained 24/7 operational readiness, but is now working on maintaining readiness for two armed jets around-the-clock. Because of its policy of neutrality, Swiss aircraft are unlikely to be deployed elsewhere except for training exercises.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.