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Government stands by fighter jet plans

The cabinet has confirmed its intention of purchasing new fighter jets for the Swiss air force – in the face of criticism over the cost.

At a meeting on Wednesday it decided to stick with its previously agreed timescale for replacing its ageing Tiger jet fleet.

Defence Minister Ueli Maurer had suggested last week that the project be dropped and the money instead spent on infrastructure and equipment.

An evaluation of three types of jet by different aircraft manufacturers – Dassault, EADS and Gripen International – is underway and is expected to be complete by spring 2010.

The defence ministry had originally planned to spend SFr2.2 billion ($2.18 billion) to buy 33 new jets. The order was then reduced to 22 jets but subsequently put on hold.

The pacifist Group for a Switzerland without an Army has collected enough signatures opposing the purchase to force the issue to a national referendum. and agencies