At first glance, it might seem odd to question if landlocked Switzerland has a navy.
It’s a country surrounded by other countries, with no access to open seas. So, you certainly wouldn’t expect it to have one!
So, does Switzerland seriously have a navy?
Let’s delve into this fascinating subject.
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Does Switzerland Have A Navy?
Yes, Switzerland currently has a small navy of patrol boats on its lakes as well as a merchant navy delivering goods along the Rhine River. The patrol feel consists of 14 new patrol boats that make their rounds on the largest lakes of Switzerland: Lake Constance, Geneva, Lucerne, Lugano, & Maggiore. While the merchant Navy is based on Basel and also has 14 boats in service.
History Of The Swiss Navy
Historically, Switzerland’s primary defense focus has been its army. Given its strategic location in the heart of Europe and its policy of neutrality, it has been essential for the Swiss to maintain a robust land force to deter potential invaders.
However, Switzerland’s naval history isn’t completely non-existent. The country has had some form of navy for longer than you think. During World Wars I & II, while Switzerland maintained its neutrality, it had some patrolling vessels on its lakes to ensure its borders were secure.
There was also a merchant navy created during World War II to ensure the delivery of vital supplies along the Rhine. This was later taken over by private companies and citizens.
The 14 patrol boats operating on the Swiss lakes are part of the Swiss Armed Forces Department. They ensure Switzerland’s lake borders are secure and collaborates closely with neighboring countries that share these lakes.
These boats have been replaced in 2019 with 14 new models from Finland, called the Patrouillenboot 16. They are 13.5m long and can accommodate a crew of 6 people along with 15 soldiers when necessary. These boats also sport a 12.7mm Kongsberg gun up front, just in case!
In comparison, the private merchant navy has seen a more rapid decline of late. There was once 49 boats in service as recently as 2017, but now there are only 14. The Swiss government has stepped in to assist in maintaining these fleet numbers in order to keep this service running.
So, does Switzerland have a navy?
Not in the traditional sense of blue-water fleets patrolling the open oceans. Instead, Switzerland’s “navy” is a specialized, lake-bound force ensuring security, customs enforcement, and cooperation on the shared waters of its landlocked geography.
This unusual approach is a display of Switzerland’s unique position in the world and its ability adapt to its land-locked needs.