Stealth Week

Hidden Swiss Defences

Sometimes stealth involves hiding what you have from the enemy. Particularly today, with satellites buzzing high overhead, being able to camouflage your defense network and military strength can give an invader second thoughts about crossing your borders.

The Swiss have almost a national paranoia about defense. It stems from the fact that they live at the crossroads of some of the most important routes through the Alps. Before man took to the air, the passes through the Alps were critical for any megalomaniacal midget bent on world domination. Exacerbated by the Cold War, the Swiss built a national defense system that rivals that of anywhere in the world.

First, let’s start with the Army. Switzerland is famously neutral, but has one of the largest — if not the largest — armies on a per capita basis. While the official Army is fairly small, men between 18 and 30 may be conscripted. Often times, conscription consists of getting a gun and storing it at home as part of the militia. If anyone were to invade Switzerland, they would find a nation armed to the teeth.

The Swiss maintain a small air force. They have 33 F-18 Hornets and 54 F-5 Tiger IIs. While small, the Swiss Air Force is just as secretive. Along side their air bases are hardened tunnels where the planes are kept. Flying overhead you see taxiways disappearing into the mountains. For all we know, they could have twice the number of aircraft officially tallied. Or none at all. Do you want to risk it?

The ground forces maintain defense networks of fortified cannon placements, bunkers, and a national building code that requires every home to either have a bunker or pay into a fund to maintain community bunkers. Some of these cannon placements are very well hidden, and it would be a nasty surprise for a column of unlucky invaders to find themselves within firing range of one.

[Image Credits:, Clément Dominik via Wikimedia Commons]

  • tonyola

    The Swiss Navy is completely invisible.

    • P161911

      I was afraid to click the link just based on the Google search:

      The Swiss do have a few military patrol boats for Lake Geneva, Lake Lucern, etc.

  • "While the official Army is fairly small, men between 18 and 30 may be conscripted." Sweet baby Jesus nooo!

    What? Ohhhhhhhh, that's what that means? never mind.

    • Deartháir

      You're thinking of "circumcised". Which is kind of the same thing, only not really anything alike at all.

    • Deartháir

      *POOF!* Now did that work?

  • P161911

    I've also heard that most bridges are already fitted for explosives. In case of invasion, drop all bridges through critical routes.

    Marksmanship is the national sport in Switzerland. Pretty much every home as a true fully automatic assault rifle issued by the government. A famous story of Swiss marksmanship is told of a discussion between a Nazi German army officer and a Swiss army officer:
    German officer: "What would you do if we invaded your country with an army 4 times the size of yours?"
    Swiss officer: "We would all fire 4 shots and go home."

    • Yup, bridges and tunnels are all wired with explosives. They also placed military bases so they could allow an invading army into a valley then pounce.

      The more I read, the more awesome that little country got.

      • I have a lot more respect for the Swiss than I did yesterday. Rad stuff!

      • Deartháir

        I remember hearing about this in a history class back in university, and never did the further research to learn more about it other than the initial stories. Thanks for doing the research to find out more!

  • Number_Six

    Name a famous Swiss. No cheating.

    /even their famous are hidden from view

    • SuperD

      OK, here's one: William Tell – the archer who shot the apple off his son's head. The automatic rifle had not yet been developed, so he had to use a bow and arrow.

    • P161911

      Louis Chevrolet

    • Deartháir

      I know Renee Zellweiger is, and I think Odo from Deep Space Nine is as well.

    • tonyola

      Ursula Andress – famous and first Bond girl.
      <img src="; width=400>

      • Number_Six

        I accidentally gave you thumb down. Stupid tiny screen and keys.

    • some tennis.nut

      Roger Federer 🙂

  • betterwrappedinbacon

    I had an exchange student friend who served as a tank gunner in the Swiss Army while on drills along the Italian border. Fun fact: Swiss soldiers are permitted beer during lunch! My friend tossed back a couple too many and misunderstood the firing pattern, inadvertently shelling Italy. Luckily, no one was hurt, but there was a bit of a political kerfluffel. He never would disclose the full reprecusions of that little incident.

    • Your name is awesome. Oh, and thanks for the story!

  • Jim-Bob

    I wonder how often they go on beige alert?

  • texlenin

    I think some of this stems from them being the largest producer
    of mercenaries before the advent of large standing armies. There's
    a reason that early Pope chose Swiss mercs to guard him & Vatican

    • dwegmull

      The Pope still uses Swiss guards.

  • Mig-28s!

  • dwegmull

    As Swiss citizen, allow me to clarify certain points (in no particular order):
    – All men are required to serve in the army. First a 10 week basic training, then every other year two or three weeks (the duration changed and I can't remember which one is the current one) until the age of 28. Then they serve every other year in the civil defense until the age of 34 (Again, I'm not sure of the exact age).
    – A citizen living abroad has the choice between serving or paying a 1% income tax.
    – Conscience objectors used to be sent to jail. I thing they have have relaxed this law recently and there are some civil service options.
    – Each man who serves keeps his complete equipment at home. This includes everything from his weapon to his Swiss army knife. At the end of his service duty he can buy his weapon, after the automatic function is disabled.
    – On years when he is not going for training, he must go to an approved gun range to practice firing his weapon.
    – A lot of private trucks can be militarized in the event of war. Their driver are to report to duty with their vehicle in addition to the rest of their equipment.
    – Women are allowed to serve on a voluntary basis.
    – I cannot comment on the size of the army, its weapons or other defense mechanism (mainly because I don't know). I can say that the size of the military has been reduced since its peak in the 70s~80s. It used to be the largest force that could be mobilized under 48 hours. That was in absolute numbers, not per capita!
    – Soldiers travel from home to various military bases by train for free. The marching orders are their tickets.
    – Due to the limited available land, military vehicles are often driven on public roads. For example, as an APC driver, I've driven all over the place, including within a few meters of various border. Accidental border crossing have happened in the past.

    • I forgot you were Swiss! Thanks for the clarifications.

      Man, do we have the coolest geek blog readers or what?

  • The ultimate in military preparedness…

    <img src=""&gt;

    • CaptianNemo2001

      No. That sir, is a fancy paperweight. I'll take the simpler, classic version, thank you.

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  • The description of the way the Swiss have pre-mined their bridges reminded me of all the defenses built between Seoul and the DMZ, that I saw years ago when I went to Korea. Huge berms, tank traps, tunnels through the berms with gigantic concrete barriers ready to drop, all kinds of neat but kinda scary stuff.

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