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Army shopping list gets go-ahead

The procurement programme includes the purchase of new flight simulators

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss army's SFr1.5 billion ($1.25 billion) procurement programme for next year has passed through parliament without a hitch and only the odd warning shot.

Attempts from the left to cut costs and by the rightwing People's Party to delay spending until military reforms were outlined were rejected by the House of Representatives.

A strong majority of the House followed the Senate's lead on Wednesday in approving the programme - the biggest in nine years.

Most speakers said the purchases and their cost were justified. More than half the money will be spent in Switzerland.

Defence Minister Samuel Schmid had called on the House to agree to the planned purchases, saying the Swiss militia army needed modern equipment for its tasks.

The armed forces will be able to buy a series of demining and engineering tanks worth SFr139 million, an acquisition that had been refused by parliament for the 2004 procurement programme.

Another important purchase will be six Swiss-built Pilatus PC-21 aircraft as replacements for aging F-5 Tiger jets used to help train pilots for the F/A-18 Hornet fighters. Four F/A-18 simulators will also be bought.

Computer network

The biggest acquisition though will be a computer network worth SFr424 million to coordinate the army's ground forces, technically compatible with Nato's own system.

Most of the remaining spending will go to overhaul and upgrade existing equipment, such as the army's Leopard tanks or Super Puma helicopters, allowing them to stay on in service for another 15 years.

The military also will seek to improve the efficiency of 160 of its Piranha tank hunters with new computer equipment and self-defence mechanisms for these armoured vehicles.

During the debate the centre-left attempted to impose a ten per cent cut on the programme, but the Social Democrats and Greens saw their proposal rejected.

Attempts to block the purchase of Israeli components for helicopters failed too.

The centre-left also joined forces with some members of the People's Party, who wanted to freeze two thirds of the credits until after parliament had debated army reforms. The proposal was rejected by just one vote.

swissinfo with agencies

Militia army

The Swiss army functions according to a militia principle. All men liable to do military service undergo basic training and broaden their ...

In brief

Defence is one of the main tasks of the Swiss federal government, and one of the most costly.

In 2005, the government spent SFr5 billion on defence or 3.7 per cent of the national budget.

Agriculture received 3.2 per cent, social security 19.5 per cent and education 19.6 per cent.

Over the past quarter century, defence spending has dropped notably – falling from 8.2 per cent of the national budget in 1980. Once inflation is factored in, defence spending has been cut by a quarter.

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Key facts

Procurement programme: SFr1.5 billion
Computer network: SFr424 million
Leopard tank upgrade: SFr395 million
Super Puma helicopters: SFr194 million
Demining and engineering tanks: SFr139 million
Piranha upgrade: SFr126 million
Pilatus PC-21: SFr115 million
Flight simulators: SFr69 million
Leopard gunnery simulators: SFr39 million

end of infobox


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