Swiss lawmakers voted Thursday to proceed with the controversial purchase of F-35 fighter jets without holding a referendum sought by opponents of the deal.
The lower house National Council gave the government the go-ahead to buy the 36 aircraft from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin by a large majority.
The upper house, the Council of States where Switzerland’s cantons are represented, has already approved the acquisition.
The Swiss government said last month it planned to go ahead with the acquisition of the combat aircraft despite a petition to hold a popular vote on the issue.
The left-leaning “Stop-F-35” alliance handed over the 100,000 signatures required under Switzerland’s direct democracy system to take any subject to a vote.
But the government said there would not be enough time to hold a vote before Lockheed Martin’s offer for the F-35A aircraft expired, which would have left Switzerland unable to replace its ageing fleet of fighter jets.
Switzerland decided in June 2021 to acquire F-35s and has until March 2023 to sign the contract.
In September 2020, Swiss voters narrowly approved six billion Swiss francs ($6.3 billion) to replace the country’s fleet of F/A-18 Hornets.
The selection of the F-35 sparked some controversy, particularly in light of the cost-overruns of the fighter program in the United States, but a Swiss parliamentary investigation did not call into question the selection of the fighter.
Switzerland will join a growing number of European countries which have opted for the stealth multi-role combat aircraft, including Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland.
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