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Steel deal Victorinox named an official pocketknife supplier to US army

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Victorinox's Knife Combat Utility; a US soldier

Victorinox's Knife Combat Utility; a US soldier

(JakobIneichen,GerryBroome/AP )

The US army has added a knife made by Swiss manufacturer Victorinox to its official order list. The family-owned company, based in canton Schwyz, is hoping the move will raise awareness of its products in the US. 

The US Defense Logistics Agencyexternal link (DLA), the Department of Defense’s largest logistics combat support agency, had indeed added the Victorinox knife to its list, a DLA spokesperson told the Swiss News Agency on Monday, confirming a report in the Luzerner Zeitungexternal link newspaper. 

As a result, members of the US army can – but are not obliged to – buy the DLA-recommended knife. 

“Financially, the deal will be limited, but it will benefit our image greatly,” Paul Camenzind, head of army knives at Victorinoxexternal link, told the paper. 

The US-offered knife is basically the same as the one Swiss soldiers are given and which is available in shops for around CHF50 ($52), with the difference that the steel implements have been anodised (darkened) and the letters “US” have been imprinted on it. 

Many other armies around the world, including those in Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore and Norway, already use the knife, officially called a “Knife Combat Utility”. Its features include a wood saw, tin opener and various screwdrivers. 

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Camenzind did not reveal how many orders Victorinox had received for the knife, which at present can only be purchased by US soldiers. It remained open, he said, whether the knife would be available in shops either in the US or Switzerland. 

He explained that army knives for soldiers make up a very small part of the company’s turnover, but since thousands of people in the army could order the knife, Victorinox was hoping for increased brand awareness in the US. 

Sales slump 

The history of the iconic red penknife from Switzerland goes back to 1884 when Karl Elsener opened a workshop in Ibach, canton Schwyz. 

In 1891 he heard that the Swiss army had decided to buy a knife for all Swiss soldiers. He took the initiative to found the Swiss Master Cutlers Association, which delivered the first knives to the servicemen. 

Today Victorinox is the largest cutlery producer in Europe, but sales of army knives have slumped since the September 11 attacks in the United States when hijackers used knives and box cutters to overpower the aircraft crews. 

Since then, airlines have banned passengers from bringing pocketknives into aircraft cabins. Victorinox suffered a serious blow as a result since pocketknives make up about 70% of company revenues.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts

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