Switzerland has a long history of neutrality. Since the Treaty of Paris in 1815, the country’s military has remained neutral during any following military conflict. Even during the Second World War—when the country was surrounded by Axis states—Switzerland remained unaligned.
Although it remains a neutral country, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has tested its ability to stay unaligned. A recent example of this, Switzerland opted to sanction Russia for its “serious violation of the most fundamental norms of international law and is without precedent in recent European history.” [i]
Air Defense Capabilities
In the 1960s, Switzerland implemented the FLORIDA Airspace Monitoring And Management System; for forty years, FLORIDA offered Switzerland a twenty-four-hour, partially automated surveillance system. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, Switzerland needed an alternate system for FLORIDA, and in 2003, FLORAKO replaced it. FLORAKO has four radar sites—located in Mount Pilatus, Scopi, Weisshorn, and Weissfluh—that possess air surveillance radar and a secondary radar subsystem. In 2017, the Armasuisse was commissioned to modernize FLORAKO so that it would be functional through 2030. [ii]
Beginning in the 1960s, Switzerland implemented its first ground-based air defense (GBAD), the BL-64 “Bloodhound” missile system. This has since been replaced by the Rapier surface-to-air missile, the FIM-92 stinger portable air defense system, and the Oerlikon GDF towed anti-aircraft artillery gun.
Missile Defense Capabilities
During the second half of the twentieth century, Switzerland procured 30 F/A-18 Hornets and 53 Northrop F-5 Tiger IIs. By 2022, however, the Hornets and Tigers are expected to be in need of replacement. Thus, in an effort to find replacement equipment, Switzerland launched its Air 2030 Project. In the end, they decided to procure 36 F-35as. [iv] In September 2020, the U.S. Department of State approved the potential sale of up to five Patriot PAC-3 defense systems to Switzerland, the first of which was purchased in June 2021. [v]
At present, Switzerland is in the process of purchasing 5 Patriot anti-aircraft defense systems and 36 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.