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Switzerland Just Ordered Dozens of F-35s, Despite Opposition

Though angry opponents aim to overturn the $5.5 billion deal with a referendum.

Switzerland is buying a fleet of Lockheed Martin's F-35A Lightning II fighter jets in a $5.5 billion deal, CNN reports, as global orders for the stealthy fifth-generation fighter start to mount.

However, the move was met with angry opposition in the Swiss parliament, and opponents aim to overthrow the decision with a referendum.

Critics argue that Switzerland, which remained neutral during Worl War II, hasn't taken part in a foreign war in over 200 years, so it does not need new fighter jets.

What's more, the F-35 has had numerous delays during its development process, caused by budget overruns and technical setbacks. As far back as 2017, news outlets such as Bloomberg started to refer to the F-35 as a trillion-dollar mistake. 

Problems with the F-35's F135 engine also mean that there will be fewer of the fighter jets at air shows this year.

Initial plans for the US Air Force's F-16 to be retired in 2025 and replaced by F-35s were pushed back, with recent reports suggesting the USAF was considering making new orders for the F-16 for the first time in 16 years.

Critics claim 'clear rejection' of F-35s by Swiss public

Nevertheless, orders are finally coming in for the state-of-the-art fighter jet and Switzerland stated that it will buy 36 F-35As after it conducted an evaluation, finding that it had "the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost."

The US fighter jet came out on top against competition from the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, and the Eurofighter Typhoon

The evaluation of the several fighter jets highlighted the fact that Switzerland could buy more F-35As with its proposed budget than any other fighter jets in consideration.

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However, as Defense News points out, operating costs are a different question, and they can run as high as $38,000 an hour.

The Swiss Parliament still has to approve the funding of the purchase, with a debate on the subject scheduled for early 2022.

As CNN reports, the decision looks set to lead to Switzerland's third vote on government expenditure on fighter jets. In 2014, voters decided against buying Gripen fighter jets from Swedish aerospace company Saab.

Now, Jonas Kampus, political secretary of the Group for a Switzerland without an Army, told CNN that public polls show "a clear rejection of the F-35 among the voting population."

If Switzerland does end up confirming the purchase, Lockheed Martin will add the country to a growing list of European customers, including Poland, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Britain. The fighter jets have a provisional delivery date of 2025.

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