Sweden has offered to loan Switzerland a squadron of used Gripen fighter jets – model C/D – until the new Gripen planes, chosen by Bern at the end of last year, can be delivered.
Based on the recommendation of Defence Minister Ueli Maurer, Switzerland decided to purchase a fleet of Gripen, manufactured by Sweden’s Saab group, to replace the air force’s fleet of US-made F5 Tigers.
Swedish Defence Minister Karin Enström told Maurer during a visit to Switzerland on Friday that a dozen or so C/D jets could be made available to fill gap before Saab supplies the latest model of the Gripen fighters.
“It seems to be quite an attractive offer for Switzerland,” she told public radio.
For his part, Maurer said he would study the offer carefully.
“It has undeniable advantages and would allow us to withdraw the F5 planes earlier. It would allow us to prepare for the Gripen, to train the pilots, ground staff, mechanics and set up the necessary infrastructure at the airports,” he said.
“It is an idea we had discussed earlier and has now been refined by Sweden.”
Switzerland would not buy the planes, he added, but details of a deal still had to be clarified – “it’s clear we wouldn’t get them for free”.
Voters are most likely going to have a say in the plan, once parliament decides on the purchase of the fighters.
The decision to buy the Gripen was controversial and triggered heated debate in the Swiss parliament and the media.
The Swedish plane was in competition with the Rafale, made by the French Dassault company and the Eurofighter of the EADS group – a European consortium headquartered in Paris and Munich.
Maurer defended the choice, saying the Gripen had been picked not because it was the “latest and most up to date fighter” but because it was the one “most suitable” for Switzerland.
He put the total cost of the fleet of 22 aircraft at about SFr3.1 billion ($3.27 billion).
Role of the Swiss Air Force
The official information brochure of the Air Force lists its missions as follows:
to protect Switzerland’s airspace
– guaranteeing air sovereignty
(including air policing tasks)
– guaranteeing air defence
to carry out air transport operations
to gather and disseminate intelligence for the political and military leadershipend of infobox
swissinfo.ch and agencies