Saturday 19 August 2023

Armour In The Alps: Switzerland’s Inventory Of AFVs

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

It might come as a surprise to many that Switzerland continues to operate a significant number of armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), even in the aftermath of the Cold War and the seemingly remote possibility of facing an invasion from any (neighboring) nation. In spite of the decommissioning of most bunker systems and a considerable reduction in its air force, the Swiss Armed Forces are engaged in a continual process of modernising their capabilities. This involves both the acquisition of new equipment and the enhancing of existing AFVs through (limited) upgrade programmes.

An intriguing aspect is that, despite possessing a fleet of 30 F-18 and 18 F-5 fighter aircraft, the Swiss Armed Forces has been without an air-to-ground capability following the retirement of its last Hawker Hunters in 1994. In lieu of this capability, the Swiss Army has relied upon a significant number of M109 self-propelled guns to provide fire-support to ground units. With the introduction of the F-35A from 2027 onwards, Switzerland is set to regain a limited air-to-ground capability through the acquisition of a limited quantity of GBU-53 and GBU-54 guided bombs. [1]

The importance of ground-based fire support assets remains unquestionable within the Swiss Army. The force currently maintains an impressive fleet of 133 M109 KAWEST WE SPGs, underscoring the continued emphasis on this capability. Looking ahead, there are plans to replace the M109s with 155mm RCH-155s or Archers in the coming decade. Alongside the SPGs, the Swiss Army has ordered a total of 48 Piranha-V-based 120mm Mörser 16 self-propelled mortars (SPMs). The inventory of the Swiss Army does not include multiple rocket launchers (MRLs).
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Swiss Army swiftly increased its existing equipment orders. Notably, the order for the 120mm Mörser 16 SPM was expanded from 32 to 48. The acquisition of Pionier Panzerfahrzeug 21 AEV was increased from 60 to 84. Switzerland's acquisition of AFVs is marked by an increasing preference for wheeled platforms over tracked ones, a choice that aligns well with the country's extensive road network. Nonetheless, the Swiss Army's 110 Panzerjäger 90 tank destroyers were decommissioned in 2022 without a direct replacement.
As iconic structures like the Festungskanone BISON and Centi Bunkers have become relics of the past, Switzerland has adopted a strategy prioritising swift force deployment across the country instead of relying on bunker systems. This transformation is evident in decisions such as the scrapping of nearly a thousand M113 APCs in favour of modern wheeled alternatives like the GMTF Duro IIIP. Whatever future steps will be taken to further enchance the Swiss Armed Forces' firepower and effectiveness, the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine is likely to ensure a substantial Swiss Army for many decades to come, ensuring the country's readiness in an ever-changing global landscape.

This list attempts to list all AFV types currently in service with the Swiss Armed Forces. This list only includes vehicles and equipment currently confirmed as active, placed in operational reserve, or on order by the Swiss Armed Forces. Switzerland employs various abbreviations to denote upgrades and service life extensions for its military capabilities, including Combat Upgrade (KAWEST), Value Maintenance Programme (WE), and Extension of Use (NUV). Radars, (armoured) trucks and jeeps are not included in the list.
(Click on the vehicle or equipment type to get a picture of them)

Tanks (205)

Infantry Fighting Vehicles (186)

  • 186 CV9030CH (To be upgraded and kept in service until 2040)

Tracked Armoured Personnel Carriers (90)


Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carriers (930)

Infantry Mobility Vehicles (4+)


Reconnaissance Vehicles (228)


Light Strike Vehicles (10)


Military Engineering Vehicles And Equipment


Communications Stations (64)


Command Vehicles (310)


Self-Propelled Mortars (48 Systems On Order)

Self-Propelled Artillery (133)

Towed Anti-Aircraft Guns (48)


Static SAM Systems (5 Fire Units On Order)