Swiss Armed Forces

The Swiss Armed Forces (German: Schweizer Armee, French: Armée suisse, Italian: Esercito svizzero, Romanisch: Armada svizra) operates on land, in the air, and in international waters. Under the country's militia system, professional soldiers constitute about 5 percent of the military and the rest are conscripts or volunteers aged 19 to 34 (in some cases up to 50). Because of Switzerland's long history of neutrality, the armed forces do not take part in conflicts in other countries, but it does participate in international peacekeeping missions. Switzerland is part of the NATO Partnership for Peace programme.[4]

The structure of the Swiss militia system stipulates that the soldiers keep their own personal equipment, including all personally assigned weapons, at home (until 2007 this also included ammunition[5]). Compulsory military service applies to all male Swiss citizens, with women serving voluntarily. Males usually receive initial orders at the age of 18 for military conscription eligibility screening. About two-thirds of young Swiss men are found suitable for service, while alternative service exists for those found unsuitable.[6] Annually, approximately 20,000 persons are trained in basic training for 18 weeks (23 weeks for special forces).

The reform "Army XXI" was adopted by popular vote in 2003. It replaced the previous model "Army 95", reducing manpower from 400,000 to about 200,000 personnel, 120,000 receiving periodic military training and 80,000 reservists who have completed their total military training requirements.[7]

Swiss Armed Forces
German: Schweizer Armee
French: Armée suisse
Italian: Esercito svizzero
Romanisch: Armada svizra
Armee CH logo
Current formArmy XXI
Service branchesArmy
Air Force
Commander-in-chiefVacant in peacetime
DDPS MinisterViola Amherd
Chief of the Armed ForcesLt Gen Philippe Rebord
Military age19 years of age for male compulsory military service; 18 years of age for voluntary male and female military service;
Conscription19–34 years of age (males only)
36 for subaltern officers, 52 for staff officers and higher
Available for
military service
1,852,580 males, age 16–49 (2009 est.),
1,807,667 females, age 16–49 (2009 est.)
Fit for
military service
1,510,259 males, age 16–49 (2009 est.),
1,475,993 females, age 16–49 (2009 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
48,076 males (2009 est.),
44,049 females (2009 est.)
Active personnelc. 160,000 (2017)[1] (ranked 47th)
BudgetCHF4.53 billion (~US$4.83 billion FY12)[2]
Percent of GDP0.76% (2012)[3]
Related articles
RanksMilitary ranks of the Swiss Armed Forces


The land component of the Swiss Armed Forces originated from the cantonal troops of the Old Swiss Confederacy, called upon in cases of external threats by the Tagsatzung or by the canton in distress. In the federal treaty of 1815, the Tagsatzung prescribed cantonal troops to put a contingent of 2% of the population of each canton at the federation's disposition, amounting to a force of some 33,000 men. The cantonal armies were converted into the federal army (Bundesheer) with the constitution of 1848. From this time, it was illegal for the individual cantons to declare war or to sign capitulations or peace agreements. Paragraph 13 explicitly prohibited the federation from sustaining a standing army, and the cantons were allowed a maximum standing force of 300 each (not including the Landjäger corps, a kind of police force). Paragraph 18 declared the "obligation" of every Swiss citizen to serve in the federal army if conscripted (Wehrpflicht), setting its size at 3% of the population plus a reserve of one and one half that number, amounting to a total force of some 80,000..

Clemens-1896-swiss army
A Swiss Army exercise in 1896, painting by Joseph Clemens Kaufmann

The first complete mobilization, under the command of Hans Herzog, was triggered by the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. In 1875, the army was called in to crush a strike of workers at the Gotthard tunnel. Four workers were killed and 13 were severely wounded.

Paragraph 19 of the revised constitution of 1874 extended the definition of the federal army to every able-bodied male citizen, swelling the size of the army (at least in theory) from under 150,000 to more than 700,000, with population growth during the 20th century rising further to some 1.5 million, the second largest armed force per capita after the Israeli Defence Forces.

A major manoeuvre commanded in 1912 by Ulrich Wille, a reputed Germanophile, convinced visiting European heads of state, in particular Kaiser Wilhelm II, of the efficacy and determination of Swiss defences.[8] Wille was subsequently put in command of the second complete mobilization in 1914, and Switzerland escaped invasion in the course of World War I. Wille also ordered the suppression of the 1918 general strike (Landesstreik) with military force. Three workers were killed, and a rather larger number of soldiers died of the Spanish flu during mobilization. In 1932, the army was called to suppress an anti-fascist demonstration in Geneva. The troops shot dead 13 demonstrators, wounding another 65. This incident long damaged the army's reputation, leading to persistent calls for its abolition among left-wing politicians. In both the 1918 and the 1932 incidents, the troops deployed were consciously selected from rural regions such as the Berner Oberland, fanning the enmity between the traditionally conservative rural population and the urban working class. The third complete mobilization of the army took place during World War II under the command of Henri Guisan (see also Switzerland during the World Wars). The Patrouille des Glaciers race, created to test the abilities of soldiers, was created during the war.

Kavallerieschwadron 1972
Veterans' traditional Cavalry squadron 2006 presenting the uniform of 1972

In the 1960s and 1970s, the armed forces were organised according to the "Armee 61" structure. Horse mounted cavalry ("dragoons") were retained for combat roles until 1973, as were bicycle infantry battalions until 2001. [9]

Since 1989, there have been several attempts to curb military activity or even abolish the armed forces altogether. A notable referendum on the subject was held on 26 November 1989 and, although defeated, did see a significant percentage of the voters in favour of such an initiative.[10] However, a similar referendum, called for before, but held shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001 in the US, was defeated by over 77% of voters.[11]

In 1989, the status of the army as a national icon was shaken by a popular initiative aiming at its complete dissolution (see: Group for a Switzerland without an Army) receiving 35.6% support. This triggered a series of reforms and, in 1995, the number of troops was reduced to 400,000 ("Armee 95"). Article 58.1 of the 1999 constitution repeats that the army is "in principle" organized as a militia, implicitly allowing a small number of professional soldiers. A second initiative aimed at the army's dissolution in late 2001 received a mere 21.9% support.[11] Nevertheless, the army was shrunk again in 2004, to 220,000 men ("Armee XXI"), including the reserves.

In 2016, the Swiss Federal Assembly voted to further reduce the army from 140,000 men to 100,000 men, reducing the time of basic training from 21 weeks to 18, but also to increase the military budget by 2.4 billion Swiss francs.[12]


Swiss Air Force airbases

The armed forces consist of 134,886 people on active duty (in Switzerland called Angehöriger der Armee, shortly AdA, engl.: Member of the Army), of which 4,230 are professionals, with the rest being conscripts or volunteers.[13] Women, for whom military service is voluntary, numbered 1,050: less than 1% of the total, but 25% of career soldiers.[13] Once decided to serve, they have the same rights and duties as their male colleagues, and they can join all services, including combat units. Recruits are generally instructed in their native language; however, the small number of Romansh-speaking recruits are instructed in German.

In contrast to most other comparable armed forces, officer candidates are usually not career regulars: after seven weeks of basic training, selected recruits are offered the possibility of a cadre function. Officer candidate schools take place separately from NCOs training, but NCOs have the possibility of becoming officers later on.[14] There are currently 17,506 officers and 22,650 NCOs in the Swiss Armed Forces.[13] Those of higher rank serve for more time each year; an ordinary soldier may serve 365 days over 30 years, while a high-ranking officer may serve 2,000 before retiring. Each promotion requires more time, which is known as "paying your grade". Companies subsidize military training by continuing to pay their employees, who list their ranks and responsibilities on their résumés.[15]

Switzerland Armed Forces 2018
Structure of the Swiss Army 2018

High command

Blattmann cropped
André Blattmann, chief of the Armed Forces from 2009-16

In peacetime, the armed forces are led by the Chief of the Armed Forces (Chef der Armee), who reports to the head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport and to the Swiss Federal Council as a whole. The current Chief of the Armed Forces is Lieutenant-General (Korpskommandant) Philippe Rebord. Lt-Gen Rebord replaced Lieutenant-General (Korpskommandant) André Blattmann on 1 January 2017.

In times of crisis or war, the Federal Assembly elects a full General (OF-9) as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (Oberbefehlshaber der Armee). The rank is distinct and particular, as it is associated exclusively with wartime fighting or a national crisis due to wartime fighting among the neighbours on the border.[15] In addition, in Switzerland the word General itself is distinct and particular, as the subordinate appointments of general-officer status omit the word itself.

Throughout Swiss history, there have only been 4 officers formally designated as General:[15]

In Switzerland, the word General is reserved for the wartime, or emergency, Commander-in-Chief, so the subordinate officers who would have had the title of 'general' in other armies have alternative designations to describe the appointment:

  • OF-8: Korpskommandant or Commandant de corps
  • OF-7: Divisionär or Divisionnaire
  • OF-6; Brigadier[15]

The distinctive feature of their rank insignia are traditionally stylized edelweiss rank-insignia. One exception, however, is that when Swiss officers are involved in peacekeeping missions abroad, they are often given temporary ranks that do not exist in the Swiss Army, to give them rank-styles readily understood by foreign officers. For example, the head of the Swiss delegation at the NNSC in Korea (see below) had a rank of major general.


Under "Armee 61" the Army was organised into Field Army Corps 1, 2, and 4, and Mountain Army Corps 3. This structure was superseded by the "Armee 95" and thereafter the "Armee XXI" structures.

Since the Army XXI reform in 2004, the basic structure of the Army has been reorganised in the following units: infantry brigades (2 and 5); mountain infantry brigades (9 and 12); armoured brigades (1 and 11).[13] Additionally two large reserve brigades (Infantry Brigade 7 and Mountain Brigade 10) exist. Four territorial divisions link the Army with the cantons by coordinating territorial tasks inside of their sector and are immediately responsible for the security of their regions, depending only on the decisions of the Federal Council.[21]

SRC 023
Grenadier carrying a Stgw 90
Schweizer Armee Füs Gr
Infantry squad and Mowag Piranha during presentation
Schweizer Armee Füs Gr 2
Swiss soldier in combat uniform during house search demonstration 2006 in Thun
Pz 87 Leopard - Front 2 - Schweizer Armee - Steel Parade 2006
Leopard 87 main battle tanks
Mowag Eagle Aufkl Fz 93
Mowag Eagle Swiss army reconnaissance vehicle

Army formations

The Swiss Army fields the following brigades:[22]

Brigade Subordinate units
Mechanized Brigade 1
  • Command Support Battalion 1 (Bataillon d'aide au commandement 1)
  • Reconnaissance Battalion 1 (Bataillon d'exploration 1)
  • Tank Battalion 12 (Bataillon de chars 12)
  • Mechanized Battalion 17
  • Mechanized Battalion 18
  • Artillery Battalion 1
  • Armoured Engineer Battalion 1
Mechanized Brigade 4
  • Command Support Battalion 4
  • Reconnaissance battalion 4
  • Reconnaissance battalion 5
  • Artillery Battalion 10
  • Artillery Battalion 49
  • Bridge Engineer Battalion 26
Mechanized Brigade 11 (see de:Panzerbrigade 11)
  • Command Support Battalion 11
  • Reconnaissance battalion 11
  • Tank Battalion 13 (Panzerbataillon 13)
  • Mechanized Battalion 14
  • Mechanized battalion 29
  • Artillery Battalion 16 (Artillerie Abteilung 16)
  • Armoured Engineer Battalion 11

The four territorial divisions field additional Army units for local defense tasks:

Territorial division Subordinate units
Territorial Division 1 in Morges
  • Territorial Division Staff Battalion 1
  • Rifle battalion 1 (Bataillon de Carabiniers 1)
  • Mountain Infantry battalion 7 (Bataillon d'infanterie de montagne 7)
  • Infantry Battalion 13
  • Rifle battalion 14 (Bataillon de Carabiniers 14)
  • Infantry Battalion 19 (Bataillon d'infanterie 19)
  • Engineer Battalion 2
  • Emergency Rescue Battalion 1
  • Rescue Coordination Center 1
  • Patrouille des Glaciers Command
Territorial Division 2 in Kriens
  • Territorial Division Staff Battalion 2
  • Infantry battalion 11
  • Infantry Battalion 20
  • Infantry Battalion 56
  • Infantry Battalion 97
  • Engineer Battalion 6
  • Emergency Rescue Battalion 2
  • Rescue Coordination Center 2
Territorial Division 3 in Altdorf
  • Territorial Division Staff Battalion 3
  • Mountain Infantry Battalion 29
  • Mountain Infantry Battalion 30 (Battaglione fanteria montagna 30)
  • Mountain Infantry Battalion 48
  • Mountain Infantry Battalion 91
  • Engineer Battalion 9
  • Emergency Rescue Battalion 3
  • Rescue Coordination Center 3
Territorial Division 4 in St. Gallen
  • Territorial Division Staff Battalion 4
  • Mountain Rifle Battalion 6 (Gebirgsschützenbataillon 6)
  • Infantry Battalion 61
  • Infantry Battalion 65
  • Mountain Infantry Battalion 85
  • Engineer Battalion 23
  • Emergency Rescue Battalion 4
  • Rescue Coordination Center 4

Air force

Axalp Cougar Opening flare launch
Cougar Helicopter firing decoy flares
Axalp FA-18C 5
F/A-18C over Swiss Alps

The Swiss Air Force has been traditionally a militia-based service, including its pilots, with an inventory of approximately 456 aircraft whose lengthy service lives (many for more than 30 years) overlapped several eras. However, beginning with its separation from the Army in 1996, the Air Force has been downsizing; it now has a strength of approximately 270 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and is moving towards a smaller, more professional force.

The primary front-line air-defence fleet consists of 30 F/A-18 Hornets (34 aircraft were originally purchased, with three F/A-18D and one F/A-18C lost in crashes) organized into three squadrons (11, 17 and 18) along with 53 F-5 Tiger IIs (98 F-5E and 12 F-5F originally purchased). In October 2008, the Swiss Hornet fleet reached the 50,000 flight hour milestone.[23]

In peacetime the Swiss Air Force does not maintain 24/7 operational readiness status, due to the limited budget and staff available. The Swiss Air Force is now working on extending the operational times, aiming to be maintaining readiness for two armed jet fighters round-the-clock in 2020.[24] The difficulty of defending Swiss airspace is illustrated by the mountainous character and the small size of the country; the maximum extension of Switzerland is 348 km, a distance that can be flown in a little over 20 minutes by commercial aircraft. Furthermore, Switzerland's policy of neutrality means that they are unlikely to be deployed elsewhere (except for training exercises).

Intelligence gathering

Picswiss VS-69-41
Onyx antennas in Leuk

The Swiss military department maintains the Onyx intelligence gathering system, similar to but much smaller than the international Echelon system.

The Onyx system was launched in 2000 in order to monitor both civil and military communications, such as telephone, fax or Internet traffic carried by satellite. It was completed in late 2005 and currently consists of three interception sites, all based in Switzerland. In a way similar to Echelon, Onyx uses lists of keywords to filter the intercepted content for information of interest.

On 8 January 2006, the Swiss newspaper Sonntagsblick (Sunday edition of the Blick newspaper) published a secret report produced by the Swiss government using data intercepted by Onyx. The report described a fax sent by the Egyptian department of Foreign Affairs to the Egyptian Embassy in London, and described the existence of secret detention facilities (black sites) run by the CIA in Central and Eastern Europe. The Swiss government did not officially confirm the existence of the report, but started a judiciary procedure for leakage of secret documents against the newspaper on 9 January 2006.

Lakes flotilla

The maritime branch of the Army maintains a flotilla of military patrol boats to secure several sizeable lakes that span Switzerland's borders. These boats also serve in a search and rescue role.

During the Second World War, Switzerland fielded the Type 41 class of patrol boats, armed with an anti-tank gun (later replaced by 20mm auto-cannons) and dual machine guns. Nine units were commissioned between 1941 and 1944. These boats were upgraded in 1964, notably receiving radars, radios and modern armament, and were kept in service into the 1980s, the last being decommissioned in late 1983.[25]

The contemporary force utilises the Aquarius-class (Patrouillenboot 80) riverine patrol boats, which are operated by Motorboat Company 10 of the Corps of Engineers and which patrol lakes Geneva, Lucerne, Lugano, Maggiore and Constance.[26]

The term Admiral of the Swiss Navy is sometimes used metaphorically to describe a self-important person but it is regarded as United States military slang and unused in Switzerland.[27] The lakes flotilla has no admiral, as it is only a company-sized unit of the Swiss Army.

Spiez-IMG 8698

The Spiez, a Type 41 patrol boat, on display at the Swiss Museum of Transport.

Patrouillenboot 80 - Schweizer Armee - Steel Parade 2006

Aquarius-class patrol boat, Type 80


Switzerland has mandatory military service for all able-bodied male citizens, who are conscripted when they reach the age of majority,[28] though women may volunteer for any position.[29] People determined unfit for service, where fitness is defined as "satisfying physically, intellectually and psychological requirements for military service or civil protection service and being capable of accomplishing these services without harming oneself or others",[30] are exempted from service but pay a 3% additional annual income tax until the age of 30, unless they are affected by a disability.[31] Almost 20% of all conscripts were found unfit for military or civilian service in 2008; the rate is generally higher in urban cantons such as Zurich and Geneva than in the rural ones.[32] Swiss citizens living abroad are generally exempted from conscription in time of peace[33] while dual citizenship by itself does not grant such exemption.[34]

On 22 September 2013, a referendum was held that aimed to abolish conscription in Switzerland.[35] With a turnout of 47.0% on this particular question, over 73% voted against eliminating conscription.


The prime role of the Swiss Armed Forces is Home Defence. Switzerland is not part of any multinational war-fighting structure, but individual Armed Forces members do take part in international missions.

Military and civil defence

After World War II, Switzerland began building homes with 40 cm-thick concrete ceilings that might survive firebombing of the type that destroyed Hamburg and Dresden. In the 1960s they began constructing radiation and blast shelters that could survive one to three bars of pressure from a nuclear explosion.[36] Building codes require blast shelters, which are said to be able to accommodate 114% of the Swiss population.[37] Small towns have large underground parking garages that can serve as sealed community shelters.[36] There are also hospitals and command centres in such shelters, aimed at keeping the country running in case of emergencies. Every family or rental agency has to pay a replacement tax to support these shelters, or alternatively own a personal shelter in their place of residence;[38] many private shelters serve as wine cellars and closets.[36]

Camouflaged cannons and fortifications near Furka Pass in the Gotthard region

Thousands of tunnels, highways, railroads, and bridges are built with tank traps and primed with demolition charges to be used against invading forces; often, the civilian engineer who designed the bridge plans the demolition as a military officer. Hidden guns are aimed to prevent enemy forces from attempting to rebuild.[15] Permanent fortifications were established in the Alps, as bases from which to retake the fertile valleys after a potential invasion. They include underground air bases that are adjacent to normal runways; the aircraft, crew and supporting material are housed in the caverns.

However, a significant part of these fortifications was dismantled between the 1980s and during the "Army 95" reformation. The most important fortifications are located at Saint-Maurice, Gotthard Pass area and Sargans. The fortification on the left side of the Rhône at Saint-Maurice is no longer used by the army since the beginning of the 1990s. The right side (Savatan) is still in use.

During the Cold War the military expected that any invasion would likely come from the northeast, as the Soviet Union associated the country with NATO despite its stated neutrality.[15] The Swiss government thought that the aim of an invasion would be to control the economically important transport routes through the Swiss Alps, namely the Gotthard, the Simplon and Great St. Bernard passes, because Switzerland does not possess any significant natural resources.

Peacekeeping overseas

Cougar AS532 T 334 Swiss Air Force Rescue Exercise
Cougar AS532 T-334 Swiss Air Force rescue exercise

Operating from a neutral country, Switzerland's army does not take part in armed conflicts in other countries. However, over the years, the Swiss army has been part of several peacekeeping missions around the world.

From 1996 to 2001, the Swiss Army was present in Bosnia and Herzegovina with headquarters in Sarajevo. Its mission, part of the Swiss Peacekeeping Missions, was to provide logistic and medical support to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), protection duties and humanitarian demining. The mission was named SHQSU, standing for Swiss Headquarters Support Unit to BiH. It was composed of 50 to 55 elite Swiss soldiers under contract for six to 12 months. None of the active soldiers were armed during the duration of the mission. The Swiss soldiers were recognized among the other armies present on the field by their distinctive yellow beret. The SHQSU is not the same as the more publicized Swisscoy, which is the Swiss Army Mission to Kosovo.

Switzerland is part of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC), which was created to monitor the armistice between North and South Korea. Since the responsibilities of the NNSC have been much reduced over the past few years, only five people are still part of the Swiss delegation, which is located near the Korean DMZ.[39][40][41]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ DDPS Statistics Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport (French)
  2. ^ Sipri: Data by Country Archived 4 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Retrieved 29 March 2014
  3. ^ The World Factbook - Switzerland Central Intelligence Agency, Retrieved 29 March 2014
  4. ^ Frontières entre police et armée, Cahier du GIPRI, n° 2, 2004
  5. ^ Soldiers can keep guns at home but not ammo Swissinfo
  6. ^ "Zwei Drittel der Rekruten diensttauglich (Schweiz, NZZ Online)". Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  7. ^ Armeezahlen Archived 9 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine (German)
  8. ^ World War I–Preparation in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  9. ^ Doole, Claire (2001-05-11). "End of road for Swiss army cyclists". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
  10. ^ "L'évolution de la politique de sécurité de la Suisse" (in French). NATO. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  11. ^ a b "Volksabstimmung vom 2. Dezember 2001" (in German). Federal Chancellery. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  12. ^ "Army Reforms Given Green Light by Parliament". Swissinfo. March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  13. ^ a b c d "The basic organisation of the Swiss Armed Forces" (PDF). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  14. ^ "L'instruction des cadres" (in French). # Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  15. ^ a b c d e f McPhee, John (1983-10-31). "La Place de la Concorde Suisse-I". The New Yorker. p. 50. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  16. ^ Langendorf, Jean-Jacques (7 November 2005). "Dufour, Guillaume-Henri" (in German). Historical Dictionary of Switzerland. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  17. ^ Wyrsch-Ineichen, Paul: Die Schwyzer Truppen im Büsinger-Handel 1849 von 1985 in Mitteilungen des historischen Vereins des Kantons Schwyz
  18. ^ Hans Senn: Aktivdienst in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  19. ^ Rapport sur l’armement et la campagne de 1857. Revue militaire Suisse 1857
  20. ^ Toast à la Patrie. Revue militaire Suisse 1860
  21. ^ "Grandes unités" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  22. ^ Swiss Parliament. "Verordnung über die Strukturen der Armee" (PDF). Swiss Government. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  23. ^ "Swiss Hornets reach 50,000 flight hours milestone". Military Aviation Publications. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 14 July 2009.
  24. ^ "Umsetzung des Projekts Luftpolizeidienst 24 steht bevor" [Implementation of Project Air Policing 24 is Imminent]. (in German). Swiss Federal Council. 1 December 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  25. ^ Information note of Spiez at the Swiss Museum of Transport
  26. ^ "Lehrverband Genie/Rettung – Truppen". Swiss Land Forces. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  27. ^ Dickson, Paul (2011). War Slang: American Fighting Words & Phrases Since the Civil War (3rd ed.). Dover Publications. p. 116. ISBN 978-0486477503.
  28. ^ "Conscrits et recrues" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  29. ^ "Femmes dans l'armée" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  30. ^ "Définition de l'aptitude au service" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  31. ^ "Ordonnance sur la taxe d'exemption de l'obligation de servir" (in French). Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  32. ^ "Les chiffres du recrutement en 2008" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  33. ^ "Les Suisses de l'étranger" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Archived from the original on 25 April 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  34. ^ "Doubles-nationaux" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  35. ^ Referendums on 22 September 2013 Archived 6 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine Swiss Parliament, 28 June 2013. Retrieved, 4 March 2014(in German)
  36. ^ a b c McPhee, John (1983-11-07). "La Place de la Concorde Suisse-II". The New Yorker. p. 55. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  37. ^ "Bunkers for all". swissinfo. 3 July 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
  38. ^ Imogen Foulkes. Swiss still braced for nuclear war. BBC News, 10 February 2007.
  39. ^ "Swiss participation to the mission NNSC in Korea". Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  40. ^ "Swiss keep watch over fragile peace". swissinfo. 19 May 2003. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  41. ^ "Photogallery: NNSC Korea". Photogallery Thomas Mäder. Retrieved 12 July 2009.


  • John McPhee, La Place de la Concorde Suisse, New York: Noonday Press (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), 1984.
  • Field Army Corps 1, Sécurité au seuil du XXIe siècle: Histoire et vie du Corps d'Armee de Campagne 1, c.2000. ISBN 2-9700264-0-6.

External links

1907 Swiss armed forces referendum

A referendum on the armed forces was held in Switzerland on 3 November 1907. Voters were asked whether they approved of the organisation of the federal armed forces. The proposal was approved by 55.2% of voters.

1963 Swiss referendums

Three referendums were held in Switzerland in 1963. The first was held on 26 May on a popular initiative on giving voters the right to decide on whether the Swiss Armed Forces should have nuclear weapons, and was rejected by voters. The second and third were held on 8 December on a federal resolution on continuing with the government's financial plans and on an amendment to the constitution on scholarships and educational allowances, both of which were approved by voters.

Chief of the Armed Forces (Switzerland)

The Chief of the Armed Forces (German: Chef der Armee (CdA); French: Chef de l'armée) commands the Swiss Armed Forces in time of peace and reports directly to the head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports and to the Swiss Federal Council. The position was established in 2004.

Conscription in Switzerland

Switzerland has mandatory military service (German: Militärdienst; French: service militaire; Italian: servizio militare) in the Swiss Army for all able-bodied male citizens, who are conscripted when they reach the age of majority, though women may volunteer for any position. Conscripts make up the majority of the manpower in the Swiss Armed Forces.On September 22, 2013, a referendum that aimed to abolish conscription was held in Switzerland. However, the referendum failed with over 73% of the electorate voting against it, showing strong support for conscription in Switzerland.

Eidgenoessische Konstruktionswerkstaette

Eidgenössische Konstruktionswerkstätte English: "Federal Constructions Works", short K+W, was a Swiss state-owned enterprise, with the aim of making the Swiss military independent of foreign sources for its equipment needs. It was established in 1867 in Thun and produced artillery, vehicles and other typical military equipment. In 1914 Switzerland put in an effort to make itself independent of foreign suppliers of military aircraft and started the production of the DH-1 in Thun. Long-standing connections to the ETH Zurich ensured the necessary know-how. 1940 the aviation department moved from Thun to Emmen and in 1943 it became a separate unit of the Swiss Armed Forces independent under the name of Eidgenössisches Flugzeugwerk (F+W) (Federal Aviation Works). The Eidgenoessische Konstruktionswerkstaette focused now on the production of armoured fighting vehicles for the Swiss Army, both of its own designs and licensed production of M113 armored personnel carriers and Leopard 2 tanks and other land systems for the Swiss Army. Since 1995 it changed its name several times, started exporting and is now part of RUAG Defence.

There is a museum of the company tanks in Thun, Bern, Switzerland.

Eidgenössischer Stutzer 1851

The Eidgenössischer Stutzer 1851 (English: Federal Carbine 1851), also called Feldstutzer 1851, was the first service rifle used by the Swiss armed forces to be procured by the federal government, which was responsible for the armament of the Cantonal armed forces under the 1848 federal constitution. It was also the first military weapon in Europe to use the smaller 10.5 mm caliber (later reduced to 10.4 mm) instead of the prior de facto standard of 18 mm.

The Stutzer was refitted with a Milbank Amsler breechloading system (à tabatière) in 1867. It was replaced by the Repetiergewehr Vetterli, Modell 1869/70 in 1869.

Gefechtshelm M92

The Gefechtshelm M92 (or Gefechtshelm Schuberth B826) is the standard issue combat helmet of the Bundeswehr, first fielded in 1992 as a replacement of earlier steel helmets that were previously used during the Cold War. It is made from Aramid composite materials and is used by all branches of the Bundeswehr.

Henri Guisan

Henri Guisan (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃ʁi ɡizɑ̃]; 21 October 1874 – 7 April 1960) was a Swiss army officer who held the office of the General of the Swiss Armed Forces during the Second World War. He was the fourth and the most recent man to be appointed to the rarely used Swiss rank of General, and was possibly Switzerland's most famous soldier. He is best remembered for effectively mobilizing the Swiss Armed Forces and Swiss people in order to prepare resistance against a possible invasion by Nazi Germany in 1940. Guisan was voted the fourth-greatest Swiss figure of all time in 2010.

Infanteriegewehr Modell 1842

The Infanteriegewehr Modell 1842 (English: Infantry rifle, type 1842) was one of the first standardised service rifles used by the Swiss armed forces. It was introduced in 1842 as a result of a decision by the authorities of the Old Swiss Confederacy to standardise the weapons of the then still separate armies of the Swiss Cantons.

The weapon was refitted in 1859 (T.59) and again in 1867 (T.67) with a Milbank-Amsler receiver system to convert it to a breech loader. Some weapons were also retrofitted with rifled barrels in the 1860s.

List of equipment of the Swiss Armed Forces

This is a list of weapons, vehicles and aircraft used by the Swiss Armed Forces at present or in the past.

Military chocolate (Switzerland)

Military chocolate (German: Militärschokolade; French: chocolat militaire; Italian: cioccolato militare; Romansh: tschigulatta da militar) is a food component of the Swiss Armed Forces.

Military ranks of the Swiss Armed Forces

The military ranks of the Swiss Armed Forces have changed little over the centuries, except for the introduction, in 2001, of a new set of warrant officers. The rank insignia for all personnel are worn on shoulder boards with the appropriate background colour (see below). The exception is that, in all services, rank insignia is not worn by recruits; it is however worn by privates once they have finished recruit school. Designations are given here in German, French, Italian and Romansh (in this order), with an English translation which is used during overseas missions. In the chart below, NATO codes are used for comparison purposes only; Switzerland is not a member of NATO, and the rank structure in the senior officer region can be seen to diverge significantly from other armies'.

Mowag Duro

The DURO (Durable Robust) is a series of wheeled, multi-purpose military transport vehicles produced by General Dynamics European Land Systems in both four and six wheel drive. It was initially developed for Switzerland by Bucher-Guyer AG in Niederweningen, Switzerland. An initial 3000 vehicles order for the Swiss Armed Forces came through in 1994. In January 2003 the production was transferred to MOWAG in Kreuzlingen. Over 4,000 DURO 4x4 and 6x6 vehicles are now in service worldwide. Main customers are Switzerland, Germany, Venezuela, and the UK. In addition to these, the vehicle is used in many other countries for special purposes.


Obergefreiter (abbr. OGefr.) is a rank of the German and Swiss militaries which dates from the 19th century.

A somewhat large portion of the German Army in World War 2 consisted of Enlisted Men, especially during the later years of the war with conscription laws being increased to fight off the advancing Soviet Army. Of the 13 Million Soldiers in Germany's Fighting Force, 7.5 Million were Enlisted Men, with 2.2 Million of the Enlisted Men being Obergefreiters.

The rank was only used in the German army's heavy artillery branch (Fußartillerie) before 1919 and commonly established with the founding of the Reichswehr. Translated as "senior lance-corporal", in World War II the rank was normally given to soldiers who had command over small squads or to those soldiers who held the rank of Gefreiter and below. Soldiers that had performed a significant feat of achievement were given this title. An Obergefreiter was considered an Enlisted Man in the German Wehrmacht, equivalent to the Schutztaffel's Sturmann.

In today's Bundeswehr, every Gefreiter is normally promoted Obergefreiter after six months. The NATO-Code is OR-3 which would make Obergefreiter the equivalent to private / airman / seaman first class in most forces or, e.g., lance corporal in the Australian/New Zealand Forces. Like all enlisted personnel in the German Bundeswehr, soldiers of this rank have no military authority over lower ranking enlisted personnel (for instance Schütze or Gefreiter), except given by a higher rank.

In the Swiss Armed Forces the rank of Obergefreiter (short: Obgfr) was introduced after a long debate on 1 January 2004. They are specialists, who take over tasks of responsibility or hold the position of a group commander.

In the Bundeswehr the lower rank is Gefreiter while the next rank is Hauptgefreiter. The lower rank in the Swiss Army is also Gefreiter, the next rank is Korporal.

Patrouille des Glaciers

The Patrouille des Glaciers (PDG) is a ski mountaineering race organised every two years by the Swiss Armed Forces, in which military and civilian teams compete. It takes place once every two years at the end of April, in the south part of the canton of Valais below the summits of the Pennine Alps.

The Patrouille des Glaciers is a stage of La Grande Course that includes the most important ski mountaineering competitions of the season.

There are two different races, a normal and a short one:

Zermatt – Arolla – Verbier: 53 kilometres, altitude difference +3994m and – 4090m. This is equivalent to 110 km without altitude difference.

Arolla – Verbier: 27 kilometres, altitude difference +1881m and – 2341m. This is equivalent to 53 km without altitude difference.Each patrol consists of 3 members who, in order to compete, must

have alpine experience which ensures their capability to independently master unexpected situations under extreme conditions in an inhospitable high-alpine environment

train to meet the physical, mental and technical requirements of the competition

be willing to live the ‘PDG spirit‘ towards their own team, all participants and organising staff by acting fair, with caution and solidarity recognizing their limits as well as respecting nature and the unique alpine world

have excellent skiing skills, experience in skiing while being roped up to others, experience in alpine touring and mountaineering competitions

be able to complete the races in the following times, given normal conditions: Zermatt – Schönbiel within 3h; Zermatt – Arolla within 8h 30min; Arolla – Riedmatten within 1h 45 min; Arolla – Verbier within 8h 30 min.

Rudolf Gnägi

Rudolf Gnägi (3 August 1917, Schwadernau, Canton of Bern – 20 April 1985) was a Swiss politician and member of the Swiss Federal Council (1966–1979).

He was elected to the Federal Council of Switzerland on 8 December 1965 and handed over office on 31 December 1979. He was affiliated to the Party of Farmers, Traders and Independents (BGB/PAI), which became the Swiss People's Party in 1972.

During his office time he held the following departments:

Federal Department of Transport, Communications and Energy (1966–1967)

Federal Military Department (1968)

Federal Department of Transport, Communications and Energy (1968)

Federal Military Department (1969–1979)He was President of the Swiss Confederation twice in 1971 and 1976.

His name is popularly remembered as the nickname of a Swiss Armed Forces ordonnance item, an olive-green jumper officially named Trikothemd 75, but commonly known as Gnägi.

Spectre M4

The Spectre M4 is an Italian submachine gun that was produced by the SITES factory in Turin. It was designed by Roberto Teppa and Claudio Gritti in the mid-1980s. Production in Italy ceased in the year 1997, with the closure of SITES, but proceeded in very small numbers in Switzerland through Greco Sport S.A., a company founded by Gritti, until 2001. The Spectre is a compact and light weapon, designed for instant firepower in close combat at short ranges. The four models have top-folding buttstocks, and were available with or without a forward handgrip ahead of the magazine housing. The largely steel Spectre has a polymer overmolded grip, magazine release and safety/selector levers.

The Spectre is used by the Swiss armed forces and by Italian special forces, and has been exported elsewhere.


The Swisscoy is an association of the Swiss Armed Forces in Kosovo. It is provided as part of the KFOR of NATO military mission to promote peace. The association contains a contingent of more than 235 people who are available and funded from Switzerland.


SWISSINT (acronym for Swiss Armed Forces International Command) is the center of the Swiss Armed Forces for foreign missions. The competence center is located in Oberdorf at Stans, Canton of Nidwalden.

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