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Philippe Rebord New army chief prioritises soldier supply, jets

Rebord was appointed to his new post by Defense Minister Guy Parmelin on September 16

(Keystone)

Philippe Rebord, the newly appointed head of the Swiss army, has set priorities of launching another bid to purchase fighter jets and ensuring that the military continues to have enough soldiers to carry out its duties.

In his first in-depth interview since being appointed to his post last week, Rebord told the Le Matin Dimanche newspaper that it’s likely easier for an outsider like him from the army’s ground troop division to re-launch the fighter jet initiative because he can lend a degree of objectivity and neutrality to the project.

The Swiss army’s fleet of F/A-18 and Tiger aircraft is ageing, and Swiss voters narrowly defeated a plan to purchase new Saab Gripen jets from Sweden in 2014. Rebord said that it’s “important that the commission to determine the issues surrounding new fighter jets reaches its conclusions so that we can quickly launch a project if we want to avoid a strategic loophole.” However, he noted that the project will be primarily led by air force officials.

Rebord also highlighted the need to continue to train 18,000 soldiers per year in order to meet the army’s needs and goals. He said he senses competition for potential recruits from the civil service programme, which many young men opt for instead of military service.

“If civil service continues to be this attractive, we won’t be able to guarantee the army’s supply of soldiers,” he said.

Nevertheless, Rebord believes the army has successfully reformed itself to address today’s potential threats such as terror and cyber-attacks.

“In my opinion, we have an army that responds to the challenges that could face the country.”

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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