Acamar Founder and President Michael Unbehauen discusses the Swiss air defense program, Air2030, and concepts from Acamar's study, Air2030plus, as an alternative for a more efficient defense of Swiss airspace.
An English translation of the interview is below.
Q: You are the author of the study regading Air2030. Switzerland wants to procure a new fighter jet and you are actually voicing fundamental criticism of the Swiss department of Defense.
A: This is true, but the main criticism is not about what the Swiss Department of Defense is trying to achieve, l believe that we agree on the four basic aspects, fighter jet, ground-based air defense, optimized radar architecture, and on top of that a command and control structure. We totally agree with that. The problem that we see is the valuation of these different aspects. Here we see things differently. We believe that proportionally the ground-based air defenses should be more emphasized than fighter jets.
Q: You are also saying that the assessment, the basis which the Swiss Department of Defense is presenting is not accurate. Why isn’t it accurate?
A: l believe there are some aspects which are being overlooked in the concept of the Swiss Department of Defense. For example, it has been said explicitly that there will be no threats from ballistic missiles for Switzerland in the future. I think here differently, I believe that ongoing trends in the proliferation of ballistic missiles speak a different language. I believe that generally the emerging danger posed by drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles is not dealt with adequately. If I am honest, I also don’t understand in the current plan, for which threatening air force the Swiss Air Force concept is put together, because if you are honest, threats are not emerging from other air forces and it’s highly unlikely that other air forces will be able to cross through NATO airspace into Switzerland. It is more likely - I am not saying that it is a probable scenario - but it is more likely that cruise missiles or ballistic missiles could enter Swiss airspace more than enemy air forces.
Q: We in Switzerland are always talking about the evil enemy. Since WWll this enemy has been made an anonymous enemy and is never named explicitly, but who are these adversaries today for Switzerland?
A: That’s a good question. I believe that this is also a valid point that should be mentioned. In military planning it is necessary to somehow identify an adversary or at least a potential adversary and based on that, identify the capabilities of such a potential adversary and include these into planning. Here, no such potential adversary is named and it is not clear who could be such an adversary. I hope that NATO is not seen as such an enemy, but realistically there isn’t really much room for many adversaries for Switzerland. I believe that there needs to be some honesty here and it should at least be considered who could become such an adversary. I believe it could be considered that this could be Russia, or maybe Iran, if you will. Of course, these are not scenarios that we are saying will happen. We are not saying that these countries are enemies of Switzerland. But if we take into account what could happen under certain circumstances in the future, then we need to account for such an aspect, and then it’s obvious that both of the countries that l named, are not putting their main focus on building up their air forces, but instead ballistic and cruise missiles. This is in accordance with their military doctrine.
Q: So we need more ground-based air defense and maybe also lighter fighter jets, as we just heard about. The Leonardo would be an example. What would be the plan? Do we need the Leonardo and a heavy fighter jet like the F/A-18? So what are you actually recommending?
A: Well, l am not necessarily recommending the Leonardo but I believe that the option of a light fighter jet is something Switzerland should consider based upon the reality of the air policing missions that are carried out. Not all of these air policing missions require a heavy fighter jet like the F/A-18. But generally I think for economical reasons as well as concerning the planning of an enemy, it is always good to have a mix of different options. I believe that Switzerland should have a mix , a light fighter plane and a heavy fighter plane, and then, as l said earlier, should proportionally invest more into ground-based air defenses.
Q: The Leonardo, if we stay with this example, is barely capable of flying supersonic speed. If a Sukhoi shows up, then we would look pretty bad.
A: Yes, of course. But that’s exactly why we would still remain having a heavy fighter jet as well. We also need to be honest. Hopefully this particular case doesn’t happen often or at all. But if we actually look at what is really taking place, then we see that the vast majority, roughly 70% of all air policing missions involve aircraft that fly within the lower spectrum, slower than sonic speeds. Here, a Leonardo would be more economical and sufficient to deal with these tasks.