The various army reforms (Army 61, Army 95, Army XXI) implemented against the background of a changing security situation always went hand in hand with a fundamental reorganisation of the Swiss Army and its equipment. Texts and photos held by the Swiss Federal Archives document these developments.
The files on military aircraft and their procurement, military airfields, aviation accidents and military anti-aircraft defence held by the Swiss Federal Archives are a comprehensive source of information. Important documents can be found in the fonds of the Department of Aviation and Anti-Aircraft Defence (1939-1979) and the Federal Office for Military Aviation and Anti-Aircraft Defence (1979-1995). Other documents on military aircraft and anti-aircraft guns are held by the fonds of the armament services group and the Defense Technology Division. Photo negatives and glass plates are also available. Some photos of military aircraft of the Second World War are also available in the photo collection of the Armed Forces Staff. The National Defence fonds contain, among others, information on emergency landings and crashes involving foreign military aircraft, especially during the two World Wars, and documents on procurement transactions concluded by the former Military Department.
Weapons and tanks
The arms-related documents held by the Swiss Federal Archives focus on the evaluation of weapons and ammunition as well as their procurement, potential uses and administration. Technical details or spectacular photos, on the other hand, are rarely to be found. In the interest of successful research, it is recommendable to use the names of the official departments and manufacturing companies. Tanks, for instance, are among the products manufactured by the Swiss Federal Constructions Works in Thun.
Photos relating to tanks and various other weapons dating from the pre-1950s can be found in the National Defence fonds, the photo collection of the Armed Forces Staff on the Second World War and the fonds of the Defence Technology Division of the Federal Department of Defence (1875-1967). Photos of weapons dating from the 1960s onwards can be found in the fonds of the Artillery Division and Field Division 5. Additional documents are held by the private archives of the Association of Swiss Artillery Units (1880-2000) and the fonds of the Gruppe für Rüstungsdienste (1923-1995), Gruppe Rüstung (1994-2003), Kriegstechnische Abteilung (1875-1968), Eidgenössische Konstruktionswerkstätte, Thun (1843-1992), Eidgenössische Munitionsfabrik, Thun (1842-1980), Eidgenössische Munitionsfabrik, Altdorf (1921-1995), Eidgenössische Pulverfabrik, Wimmis (1891-1994), Eidgenössische Waffenfabrik, Bern (1871-1985), Eidgenössisches Flugzeugwerk, Emmen (1938-1978), Labor Spiez (1935-2006), Laboratorium Wimmis (1941-1966), Schweizerische Unternehmung für Flugzeuge und Systeme (1943-2000), Schweizerische Unternehmung für Waffensysteme (1978-1989) and Staatssekretariat für Wirtschaft: DUAL USE - militärisch und zivil verwendbare Güter (1993-2010).
Fortifications symbolised Switzerland's determination to defend its neutrality during the Second World War. Using the name of the office in question will help with research activities – for instance Division for Combat Engineering and Fortifications (1881-1991). Photos relating to fortifications dating from the pre-1950s can be found in the National Defence fonds, the photo collection of the Armed Forces Staff on the Second World War and the fonds of the Defence Technology Division of the Federal Department of Defence (1875-1967).
Tips for further research
- Historical Dictionary of Switzerland with, among others, articles on fortifications, air force, mechanised and light infantry, armaments factories and weapons. (all in german)
- Official Bulletin of the Federal Assembly (ger) (until 1995 aka Government Publications): parliamentary debates on arms procurement projects recorded in the documents of the pre-advisory commissions.
- Swiss Parliament: information on current advances in the field of military aircraft and other military procurements.
- Swiss Air Force: with, among others, a list of all Swiss military aircraft since 1915.
- Altenrhein Aviation Museum (ger): exhibition of old, airworthy aircraft from the Swiss Air Force and the aircraft factory in Altenrhein, among others.
- Clin d’Ailes (french): museum for military aviation in Payern.
- Fortification Museum Reuenthal (ger): exhibition on the arms and equipment of the Swiss Army.
- Rost & Grünspan – Swiss military history brought to life (ger): virtual museum on the names and function of military equipment between 1845 and 1945.
- Library at Guisanplatz: extensive library of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS).
Publications of the Federal Archives
Aktuell seit über 50 Jahren: Die Debatte um die Landesverteidigung und Flugzeugbeschaffung
Tücken einer Flugzeugbeschaffung: der «Mirage-Skandal»
Schweizer Volk spendet für Flugwaffe!
Rüstung und Kriegswirtschaft. Studien und Quellen 23, 1997.
Last modification 04.11.2019
Swiss Federal Archives
- +41 58 462 89 89
Opening hours reading room
Tu-Th, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Swiss Federal Archives