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Military chief

Switzerland appoints new head of armed forces

The government has appointed a new head of the armed forces, Philippe Rebord, to replace the outgoing André Blattmann. He will face the challenges of reforming the army and replacing a fleet of ageing fighter jets.

Rebord, who started his army career in 1985, was promoted from deputy head of the armed forces to the top position on Friday and will take up his new position on January 1, 2017.

Defence Minister Guy Parmelin told a news conference that he expected an army chief to stay in the position for four to six years. 

Neutral Switzerland operates a militia army system. Professional soldiers constitute about 5% of the military and the rest are conscripts or volunteers aged 19 to 34.

Rebord will have to implement a reduction in the size of the army after parliament passed reforms earlier this year. The number of available troops will be cut from 140,000 to 100,000, with 35,000 soldiers being available for action within 10 days.

The length of basic training for militia troops will also be cut from 21 weeks to 18 weeks.

On Thursday, the Swiss army announced an investigation after a significant quantity of explosives apparently went missing from a depot.

The Swiss air force also faces some challenges after citizens in 2014 voted down the proposed order of 22 Gripen jets from Sweden to replace Switzerland’s ageing fleet of military aircraft.

Blattmann announced in March that he would step down as army chief after eight years in the role.



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