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World 'Who is our enemy?' Neutral Switzerland votes on fighter jets

10:06  21 september  2020
10:06  21 september  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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Switzerland , which last fought a foreign war more than 200 years ago and has no discernable enemies , wants to spend billions on new fighter Many oppose the idea, saying the neutral country neither can afford nor needs cutting-edge warplanes to defend Alpine territory which a supersonic jet

ZURICH — Switzerland , which last fought a foreign war more than 200 years ago and has no discernable enemies , wants to spend billions on new fighter jets . Who is attacking a small, neutral country – surrounded by NATO?” asked Priska Seiler Graf, a member of parliament for the left-leaning

By John Revill

a large crowd of people flying kites in the sky: FILE PHOTO: Swiss Air Force F/A18 Hornet fighter jet flies past spectators on the Axalp © Reuters/ARND WIEGMANN FILE PHOTO: Swiss Air Force F/A18 Hornet fighter jet flies past spectators on the Axalp

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland, which last fought a foreign war more than 200 years ago and has no discernable enemies, wants to spend billions on new fighter jets.

Many oppose the idea, saying the neutral country neither can afford nor needs cutting-edge warplanes to defend Alpine territory which a supersonic jet can cross in 10 minutes.

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ZURICH, Sept 21 — Switzerland , which last fought a foreign war more than 200 years ago and has no discernable enemies , wants to spend Swiss Air Force F/A18 Hornet fighter jets release flares during a flight demonstration over the Axalp in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland October 12, 2017.

Switzerland , which last fought a foreign war more than 200 years ago and has no discernable enemies , wants to spend billions on new fighter Many oppose the idea, saying the neutral country neither can afford nor needs cutting-edge warplanes to defend Alpine territory which a supersonic jet

Ireland, Malta and Luxembourg don't have jets, they say, making the 6 billion Swiss franc ($6.6 billion) plan a waste of money.

"Who is our enemy? Who is attacking a small, neutral country - surrounded by NATO?" asked Priska Seiler Graf, a member of parliament for the left-leaning Social Democrats. "It's really absurd."

FILE PHOTO: Swiss Air Force F/A18 Hornet fighter jets release flares over the Axalp © Reuters/ARND WIEGMANN FILE PHOTO: Swiss Air Force F/A18 Hornet fighter jets release flares over the Axalp

Voters get their say on Sunday Sept. 27. Approving funding in the binding referendum would let the government decide next year among the Eurofighter from Airbus, the Rafale from France's Dassault, Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, or the Lockheed Martin F35-A Lightning II.

a plane flying in the sky: FILE PHOTO: A Swiss Air Force F/A 18 Hornet aircraft releases flare during the Air14 airshow at the airport in Payerne © Reuters/DENIS BALIBOUSE FILE PHOTO: A Swiss Air Force F/A 18 Hornet aircraft releases flare during the Air14 airshow at the airport in Payerne

The aircraft would replace Switzerland's aging fleet of 30 F/A-18 Hornets which will go out of service in 2030.

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Who is attacking a small, neutral country - surrounded by NATO? asked Priska Seiler Graf, a member of parliament for the FILE PHOTO: Swiss Air Force F/A18 Hornet fighter jets release flares during a flight demonstration of the Swiss Air Force over the Axalp in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

ZURICH— Switzerland , which last fought a foreign war more than 200 years ago and has no discernable enemies , wants Swiss Air Force F/A18 Hornet fighter jets release flares during a flight demonstration of the Swiss Air Force over the Axalp in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland , on Oct.

Seiler Graf said cheaper alternatives, such as a fighter version of Leonardo's M346 trainer, offered better value than the "expensive toys" under consideration.

"We need new aircraft, that is not disputed, but buying lighter, simpler aircraft would be enough," she said. "It would be better to have a Fiat than a Maserati."

Voters six years ago rejected the purchase of Gripen jets from Sweden. In 1989 a proposal to scrap its entire army got 35% of voter support.

Pollster Lukas Golder from GFS.Bern said voters are likely to back the plan to buy the jets. Armed neutrality is crucial to how Switzerland defines itself, he said, going back to the belief a strong army deterred invasion by Nazi Germany in World War II. The Pope's Swiss guards are also a reminder of the country's mercenary past.

Lawmaker Thomas Hurter from the right-wing Swiss People's Party, a former air force pilot, said Switzerland had to protect itself without relying on other countries.

"If we don't replace these old aircraft, that means we have no air force, there is no protection any more and we are not fulfilling our constitution," he said.

Smaller jets could not fly high enough, he said, or have the acceleration needed to react quickly to emergencies.

"We don't know what's going to happen in the next 50 years," Hurter said. "You need to have the fire brigade ready when there is a burning house, otherwise it's too late."

($1 = 0.9082 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Peter Graff)

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