Funding renewed for airspace protection – Federal Council makes strategic decisions

Bern, 08.11.2017 - At its meeting on 8 November, the Federal Council made several fundamental decisions on the funding of Swiss airspace protection. It was decided that Switzerland will spend up to CHF 8 billion to purchase new combat aircraft and a new ground-based air defence system. In order to make this and other investments possible, starting in 2021 the armed forces budget will be increased by 1.4 per cent per year. The Federal Council has instructed the DDPS to submit several proposal options by February 2018. The approaches that are being considered include formulating a planning decision, revising the Armed Forces Act, or following the most commonly-used approach, which is the armed forces dispatch.

Switzerland’s means for protecting its airspace are reaching the end of their service lives. The 30 F/A-18 aircraft currently in use will be obsolete by 2030, and none of the 53 F-5 Tiger aircraft can still be used to carry out operations, with only 26 of them still being flown regularly today. Finally, the ground-based air defence systems currently in place are scheduled to reach the end of their service lives by 2025 at the latest.

Airspace protection absolutely essential

It is clear to the Federal Council that both combat aircraft and ground-based air defence systems will continue to be a vital part of airspace protection. Without the ability to defend its airspace, both the population of Switzerland and its ground forces would be unprotected in the event of an armed conflict. The Federal Council therefore considers it essential to renew funding for airspace protection. Combat aircraft cannot be replaced by unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, training aircraft or by any other means – even for air policing duties.

Security policy demands and reasonable costs

The Federal Council has decided to invest up to CHF 8 billion in airspace protection. This financial framework will guarantee the desired performance levels and ensure that security requirements can be met. At the same time, costs will be kept at what the Federal Council considers to be a reasonable and financeable level.

Armed forces budget increased

In addition to renewing funding for airspace protection, there are other investments that will need to be made in the coming decade, for instance for the ground troops’ major weapons systems, which will reach the end of their service lives in the near future. In total, armament programme investments of CHF 15 to 16 billion will need to be made from 2023 to 2032. With its current budget of around CHF 5 billion per year, the armed forces will be able to allocate CHF 1 billion per year to the armament programme.

In order to finance these necessary investments, the Federal Council will be continuously increasing the armed forces’ budget in the upcoming years. This increase of around 1.4 per cent per year should go mainly towards armament, which is why the armed forces will need to stabilise its operational expenditure.

Transparency in offset transactions

The Federal Council continues to stand by the principle that foreign suppliers must compensate 100 per cent of the purchase price by placing orders with companies in Switzerland. This benefits the Swiss economy, creates jobs and gives Swiss companies access to cutting-edge technologies. The aim is to create maximum transparency for these offset transactions. This includes the creation of a register that shows which Swiss companies have received orders in excess of, for example, CHF 100,000. These orders are then deducted from the offset obligation.


The Federal Council has instructed the DDPS to submit a number of proposals by February 2018. Several options are being considered. One is to make a planning decision under Article 28 paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Parliament Act. This planning decision would explain why funding for airspace protection is being renewed, and that this can be realised only through a combination of combat aircraft and ground-based air defence systems. It would also define a financial framework of CHF 8 billion. A planning decision of this kind would be subject to an optional referendum. Another option that is being considered is to revise the Armed Forces Act, for instance by adding a new article on airspace protection that defines the resources required. Such a revision would also be subject to an optional referendum. The procedure commonly used for armament projects, which is the armed forces dispatch, is also being considered, as are other options.

The DDPS will start the procedure for procuring new combat aircraft next year by requesting offers from Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, Lockheed Martin and Saab. The Federal Council expects that, following a possible referendum vote, it will take a decision on the type of aircraft to be purchased in 2020. Delivery of the aircraft should then commence in 2025. Ground-based air defence systems with a longer range will be assessed and procured in parallel.

Address for enquiries

Renato Kalbermatten
DDPS spokesperson
+41 58 464 88 75


The Federal Council

General Secretariat DDPS