How powerful is the Swiss military

International comparison: can Switzerland afford a luxury army?


Switzerland has more jets, tanks and soldiers per capita than other countries. In an international comparison, however, the costs are limited.

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The Swiss air defense is to be renewed for eight billion francs. Defense Minister Guy Parmelin announced this to the media in Bern on Wednesday. According to the federal government's “expert group on new combat aircraft”, this is enough for 30 to 40 fighter jets - depending on the size of the surface-to-air defense.

Austria is also planning to reorganize its air force. According to a report from the summer of this year, the experts there assume that 18 aircraft will be sufficient - in an airspace that is twice as large as that of Switzerland.

How much does Switzerland spend in an international comparison?

The SP therefore speaks of “oversized luxury fighter jet plans”. The Greens also consider the new jets to be superfluous, in general: "Switzerland, a neutral country surrounded by friendly countries, must stop spending billions on wars." Because: Parmelin wants to increase the general army budget because of investments in the ground troops - by 1.4 percent annually.

But does Switzerland really afford a luxury military? 20 Minuten compared the troop and naval strengths of our neighbors and various military powers with ours. The result: calculated per capita, our army even outperforms the Saudi armed forces, depending on the category.

For example with the active soldiers. There are almost 15 active soldiers for every 1,000 inhabitants in Switzerland, around six in Austria and just two in Germany. The USA (4.2 soldiers), Russia (almost 5.8 soldiers) and Saudi Arabia (7 soldiers) also leave Switzerland far behind. The following should be taken into account here: General conscription is only available in Switzerland and Russia. In Switzerland and Austria, a large number of soldiers are also militiamen, while in Germany, the USA and Saudi Arabia, for example, mostly professional soldiers serve.

The picture is the same with the vehicles. Large battle tanks, so-called “main battle tanks”, were compared. While the Swiss Army owns 143 Leopard battle tanks, the Austrians get by with 56 vehicles of a comparable type. There are around 17 tanks available per million inhabitants in this country, in Austria there are a little more than six. In Italy and France there are only about 3 main battle tanks for every million inhabitants. The Saudis (26.3 tanks) and the Russians (19.4 tanks) outperform Switzerland in this category. However, both countries have to defend a huge territory. If you take the area to be defended as a reference, the tank density in Switzerland exceeds all other countries many times over.

There are far more jets in Swiss airspace than in any other country studied. There are 13.6 fighter planes available per 10,000 square kilometers, the Italians have 7.5, the Germans 5.9 and the Austrians only 1.8 aircraft. Over the deserts of Saudi Arabia (1.4 planes) and the vastness of Siberia (0.6 planes) there are even fewer fighter jets in the air. If you calculate per million inhabitants, the Saudis are the front runners with over 9.2 planes, followed by the Americans and the Russians, the Swiss. Austria is far behind in last place with its 15 aircraft fleet. It should be taken into account here: The Swiss and Saudi air forces have many older aircraft, while those from the USA or France are more modern.

Switzerland's armed forces, which are greatly expanded compared to our neighbors, cost us around 4.6 billion francs a year - that's around 550 francs per person. The Austrians get away cheaply with the equivalent of 300 francs, the Germans pay 500 francs almost as much as we do. It will be expensive for the French. Your military budget of 55.7 billion francs costs over 800 francs per capita. On top of that, the cost per capita fluctuates for the Americans (1885 francs per capita) and the Saudis (1977 francs per capita).

Why are the French armed forces so expensive despite being thinner? One reason could be the expensive active war missions, which also keep the costs of the Germans or the Americans high. In addition, as a landlocked country, Switzerland saves itself a navy - it consists of eleven small patrol boats that monitor Lake Constance and Lake Geneva. The Austrians forego military ships entirely - the last two Danube patrol boats were mothballed in 2006. The French, on the other hand, cost dearly for their submarines, destroyers, frigates and the naval flagship "Charles de Gaulle" - a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.