Sunday 18 May was voting day in Switzerland. Subject of a national referendum was – among others – the purchase of 22 Saab Gripen E/F fighter aircraft. Preliminary results show 53 percent of the Swiss people voted against the 3.4 billion USD deal, which was proposed by the Swiss government, and backed by parliament in 2013.
The final result of the vote is binding, and it’s unsure how the Swiss government will now move on with replacing the F-5E/F Tiger aicraft. The 22 Gripens where meant to replace those aircraft and operate side to side with the Swiss Air Force’s 32 Boeing F/A-18C and D Hornets. The F-5 Tiger will retire in 2016.
The Gripen debate has been ongoing for years. The other competitor for the F-5 replacement was Dassault’s Rafale, but Gripen was finally selected as being the most cost effective option. Following that announcement, opponents successfully gathered 100,0000 autographs in order to hold a national referendum on the purchase, saying the current economic climate doesn’t allow the purchase.
The pro-Gripen lobby was intense, with leaked documents showing what the Swedish embassy was doing to get voters on the Gripen side. Early April, Swiss Pilatus Aircraft and Saab signed a Memorandum of Understanding which addresses the offset obligations of Saab related to a Gripen purchase. Swedish offsets should have created many hundreds of Swiss jobs, according to sources.