is the idea that Switzerland has no army ? what a strange notion. Here some details
Military of Switzerland
Military age 18-32 years of age obligatorily
36 for subaltern officers, 52 for staff officers and higher
Availability males age 15-49: 1,855,808 (2000 est.)
Fit for military service males age 15-49: 1,579,921 (2000 est.)
Reaching military age annually males: 42,169 (2000 est.)
Dollar figure $3.1 billion (FY98)
Percent of GDP 1.2% (FY98)
The military of Switzerland, officially known as the Swiss Armed Forces, is a unique institution somewhere between a militia and a regular army. It is equipped with mostly modern, sophisticated, and well-maintained weapons systems and equipment.
The Swiss army 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 Landjï¿½ger 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.
The first complete mobilization, under the command of Hans Herzog, was triggered by the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.
Paragraph 19 of the revised constitution of 1874 extended the definition of the federal army to every able-bodied citizen, swelling the size of the army at least in theory from below 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 maneuver 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 the Swiss defense. Wille subsequently was put in command of the second complete mobilization, and Switzerland escaped invasion in the course of World War I. Wille also ordered the suppression of the general strike (Landesstreik) of 1918 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 13 unarmed demonstrators, wounding another 65. This incident permanently damaged the army's reputation, leading to persisting 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).
In 1989, the status of the army as a national icon was shaken by a popular initiative aiming at its complete dissolution (GSoA) 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 2001 received a mere 21.9% support. Nevertheless, the army was shrunk again in 2004, to 220,000 men ("Armee XXI"), excluding the reserves.
On May 18, 2003, Swiss voters approved the military reform project "Army XXI" to drastically reduce the size of the Swiss Army. Starting in January 2004, the 524,000-strong militia was pared down to 220,000 conscripts, including 80,000 reservists. The defence budget of SFr 4.3 billion ($3.1 billion) was trimmed by SFr 300 million and some 2,000 jobs are expected to be shed between 2004 and 2011.
The armed forces consist of a small nucleus of about 3,600 professional staff, half of whom are either instructors or staff officers, with the rest being conscripts or volunteers. All able-bodied Swiss males aged between 18 and 30 (in some cases longer) must serve, and although entry to recruit school may be delayed for highschool and equivalent education, it is no longer possible to delay it for university studies. About one third of them are excluded for various reasons, and these either serve in Civil Protection or Civil Service.
For women, military service is voluntary, but they now can serve in all the armed forces and can join all units, including combat units. About 2,000 women already serve in the army but, until the "Armee XXI" reform, were not allowed to use weapons for purposes other than self-defence. Since the reform, women can take on any position within the armed forces.
Due to the small size of the Swiss Air Force, competition to become a jet or helicopter pilot is extremely high. Candidate pilots and parachutists have to start training on their own free time from the age of 16, well before recruitment. However, if candidates appear at recruitment with a certificate showing completion of preliminary training, they are practically guaranteed that duty, if they pass the following selection during service. Aspiring pilots must however first complete basic training in a regular unit and then make officer before entering into a unit of only aspiring pilots.
The army has established a new category of soldiers, called "single-term conscripts," who volunteer to serve a single term of 300 days of active duty. The total number of single-term conscripts cannot exceed 15% of a year's draft, and these volunteers can only serve in certain branches of the military. The rest continue to follow the traditional Swiss models of serving from four to five months at first and then doing three weeks (four for officers) per year until they serve the required number of days or reach the age of 34.
Soldiers can be required to advance at least one step in rank, either to corporal or lieutenant. This is often required of Italian-speaking soldiers, because they make up a minority in the population and the armed forces, and there is a need for Italian-speaking officers. Some wish to avoid promotion, since it entails longer service time, however it also means a much higher salary as well as the benefit of several important skills such as personnel management.
With the new reform, if a soldier is promoted to corporal, he can no longer advance to lieutenant and onwards, as they are now follow two separate branches of development. However, many soldiers still prefer this, not simply because of a shorter service time (compared to lieutenants) but also because they have a more active, up-close role with the other troops as regular soldiers, instead of managing from a distance as officers.
Being landlocked, Switzerland does not have a navy, but it does maintain a fleet of military patrol boats, numbering 10 in 2006. They patrol the Swiss lakes: Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne and Lake Constance. These boats are sometimes humorously referred to as the "Swiss Navy".
Member of the Federal Council heading the "Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports", (formerly "Federal Military Department"):
* 1848-1854: Ulrich Ochsenbein
* 1855-1859: Friedrich Frey-Herosï¿½
* 1860-1861: Jakob Stï¿½mpfli
* 1862 only: Constant Fornerod
* 1863 only: Jakob Stï¿½mpfli
* 1864-1866: Constant Fornerod
* 1867-1868: Emil Welti
* 1869 only: Victor Ruffy
* 1870-1871: Emil Welti
* 1872 only: Paul Cï¿½rï¿½sole
* 1873-1875: Emil Welti
* 1876-1878: Johann Jakob Scherer
* 1879-1888: Wilhelm Hertenstein
* 1889-1890: Walter Hauser
* 1891-1897: Emil Frey
* 1897-1898: Eduard Mï¿½ller
* 1899 only: Eugï¿½ne Ruffy
* 1900-1906: Eduard Mï¿½ller
* 1907 only: Ludwig Forrer
* 1908-1911: Eduard Mï¿½ller
* 1912-1913: Arthur Hoffmann
* 1914-1919: Camille Decoppet
* 1920-1929: Karl Scheurer
* 1930-1940: Rudolf Minger
* 1940-1954: Karl Kobelt
* 1955-1966: Paul Chaudet
* 1967-1968: Nello Celio
* 1968-1979: Rudolf Gnï¿½gi
* 1980-1983: Georges-Andrï¿½ Chevallaz
* 1984-1986: Jean-Pascal Delamuraz
* 1987-1989: Arnold Koller
* 1989-1995: Kaspar Villiger
* 1996-2000: Adolf Ogi
* Since 2001: Samuel Schmid
Rank designations in German, French and Italian with abbreviations and corresponding NATO codes:
* Rekrut (Rekr) / recrue (recr) / recluta (recl)
* Soldat (Sdt) / soldat (sdt) / soldato (sdt)
* Gefreiter (Gfr) / appointï¿½ (app) / appuntato (app)
* Obergefreiter (Obgfr) / appointï¿½-chef (app chef) / appuntato capo
* Korporal (Kpl) / caporal (cpl) / caporale (cpl)
* Wachtmeister (Wm) / sergent (sgt) / sergente (sgt)
* Oberwachtmeister (Obwm) / sergent-chef (sgt chef) / sergente capo
* Feldweibel (Fw) / sergent-major (sgtm) / sergente maggiore
* Fourier (Four) / fourrier (four) / furiere
* Hauptfeldweibel (Hptfw) / sergent-major chef (sgtm chef) / sergente maggiore capo
* Adjutant Unteroffizier (Adj Uof) / adjudant sous-officier (adj sof) / aiutante sottoufficiale
* Stabsadjutant (Stabsadj) / adjudant dï¿½ï¿½tat-major (adj EM) / aiutante di stato maggiore
* Hauptadjutant (Hptadj) / adjudant-major (adj maj) / aiutante maggiore
* Chefadjutant (Chefadj) / adjudant-chef (adj chef) / aiutante capo
-1 Leutnant (Lt) / lieutenant (lt) / tenente (ten)
-1 Oberleutnant (Oblt) / premier-lieutenant (plt) / primo tenente (Iten)
-2 Hauptmann (Hptm) / capitaine (cap) / capitano (cap)
-3 Major (Maj) / major (maj) / maggiore (magg)
-4 Oberstleutnant (Oberstlt) / lieutenant-colonel (lt col) / tenente colonnello
-5 Oberst / colonel (col) / colonnello
Higher staff officers:
-6 Brigadier (Br) / brigadier / brigadiere
-7 Divisionï¿½r (Div) / divisionnaire / divisionario
-8 Korpskommandant (KKdt) / commandant de corps / comandante di corpo
-9 General / gï¿½nï¿½ral / generale (There are technically no Generals. In time of war, the Parliament will elect a General)
In peacetime, the armed forces are led by the Chief of the Armed Forces (Chef der Armee), who reports to the head of the Department of Defence and to the Federal Council as a whole. The current Chief of the Armed Forces is Korpskommandant Christophe Keckeis.
In times of crisis or war, the Federal Assembly elects a General (OF-9) as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (Oberbefehlshaber der Armee). There have been four Generals in Swiss history:
* Henri Dufour (1847-1848, Sonderbundskrieg; and 1856-57, Neuchï¿½tel Crisis)
* Hans Herzog (1871-1872, Franco-Prussian War)
* Ulrich Wille (1914-1918, WW
* Henri Guisan (1939-1945, WW II
Officers which would have the title of general in other armies do not bear the title general (OF-8: Commandant de corps, OF
-7 Divisionnaire and OF
-6 Brigadier), as this title is strictly a wartime designation. The distinctive feature of their rank insignia are traditionally stylized edelweiss (image). However, when Swiss Officers are involved in peacekeeping missions abroad, they often receive temporary ranks that do not exist in the Swiss Army, to put them on an equal footing with foreign officers. For example, the head of the Swiss delegation at the NNSC in Korea (see below) had a rank of major general.
 Intelligence community
The Swiss military department maintains the Onyx intelligence gathering system, similar in concept to the UKUSA's ECHELON system, but at a much smaller scale.
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 in 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.
Switzerland being a neutral country, its 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.
Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SHQSU)
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 Cooperation in Europe, OSCE. 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 6 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.
Mission in Korea (NNSC)
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 5 people are still part of the Swiss delegation, located near the Korean DMZ.