Why are American fighter jets flying over Switzerland this week?
Over the next two days, the mountains, valleys and hills of Switzerland will be alive with the sound of jet engines as American fighters twist and turn their way overhead. However, before we worry that the alpine nation is on the verge of becoming the 51st state of the US, their presence has a simple explanation.
Swiss and US air forces to train together
Speaking to 20 Minuten, the Swiss Air Force confirmed that the country will play host to a squadron of US fighter jets between September 18 and 21. The two F-16 fighters from the 510th Fighter Squadron will take off from their base in Aviano, Italy, and fly themselves across the border into Switzerland.
However, instead of a preliminary strike, the two American jets will be joined by two Swiss F/A-18 fighters on joint exercises over Switzerland. According to 20 Minuten, the Air Force said the plan is to “test the planning, implementation and debriefing of air defence exercises and to exchange experiences.” Those wanting to get the best view should head out to Payerne, Canton Vaud - where the Swiss jets are based.
Swiss Army chief says armed forces lack stammina
While not a member of NATO and well-known for its commitment to military neutrality, the Swiss Army does perform exercises with other nations from time to time. This particular operation comes just days after the head of the Swiss Army, Thomas Süssli, said that the country would stop selling off its defensive bunkers in the mountains because of heightened tensions in Europe (related to the Russia-Ukraine war) and affirmed his belief that the army - in its current state - could not defend the country for more than a few weeks.
“The army can defend itself per se, but we lack the stamina,” Süssli said, noting that the country suffers from a lack of supplies, especially when it comes to grand-scale and armoured operations. He argued that if Switzerland wants to be able to defend itself, it needs to do so with the cooperation and training that NATO can provide, although he did not specifically advocate for membership.