Arms sales down amid new row over plane deal

Pilatus PC-12s at the production facilities in Stans Keystone

Exports of Swiss war materiel continue to drop while the sale of 18 Pilatus aircraft to the United States is causing renewed criticism by the political left.

This content was published on July 25, 2013 minutes and agencies

Weapons manufacturers sold goods worth CHF194.9 million ($208.2 million) in the first six months of this year, according to figures published by the Federal Customs Administration on Thursday.

This compares with trading worth CHF418.3 million for the same period last year.

The decline is due to a slump in sales to the United Arab Emirates, with exports shriveling to just CHF1.5 million, down from CHF132.3 million in the first half of 2012.

This year, Germany, Italy and the United States account for nearly half the purchases of Swiss war materiel.

Full-year figures are published by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs each year in February.

Meanwhile, a deal reached last year between the US and the Swiss aircraft producer Pilatus for 18 PC-12 single-engine turboprop planes has prompted more controversy between political parties in Switzerland.

Afghan air force

Evi Allemann, a senior member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, is convinced that the PC-12, originally designed for civilian use, will be modified in the US and then handed over to the Afghan airforce for military purposes.

She calls on the government to make the Pilatus plane subject to strict export controls.

Jo Lang, a prominent pacifist and former parliamentarian for the Green Party, is adamant that the Swiss-built aircraft must not be used in a conflict region such as Afghanistan.

However, Hans Fehr, parliamentarian of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, dismissed allegations that the US will modify the Pilatus planes. He told the Tages-Anzeiger and Bund newspapers that the risk of abuses was small.

In 2008 it emerged that the central African state of Chad used Swiss-built PC-9 training aircraft for combat missions in neighbouring Sudan, in breach of agreements with the Swiss authorities.

As a result, the Swiss government proposed a tightening of export controls, but parliament rejected the bill.

Voters for their part threw out a 2009 initiative by a pacifist group to introduce an outright ban on weapons exports.

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