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Arrival of new Swiss army drones delayed until 2024

drone
One of the six new drones, during a test flight in Switzerland in summer 2022. © Keystone / Philipp Schmidli

New Israeli surveillance drones ordered by the Swiss army will not be delivered until the end of 2024, SRF public radio has reported.

As a result of the delays, Israeli provider Elbit must pay contractual penalties, a spokesman for army procurement agency Armasuisse told SRF on Friday.

The reconnaissance drones, one of which was successfully tested in Switzerland in summer this year, will be ready and operational at the end of 2024, the spokesman confirmed. After the test flight, it had been hoped that two drones would be handed over to the air force by the end of this year, and the army would have all six by the end of 2023.

According to SRF, the cost of the six machines is now estimated at CHF300 million ($321 million). In June, there was still talk of CHF 250 million. Armasuisse said the additional expenditure is due to exchange rate fluctuations.

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Switzerland has had to go without reconnaissance drones since 2019, when previous models were taken out of service after 20 years. Originally, the new system was to be introduced gradually from 2019. One reason for the delays was that a drone intended for Switzerland crashed in August 2020.

In addition to military use, the drones can also be used by civilian agencies like cantonal command staffs, police and rescue agencies or the border authorities – the Swiss border guards are currently using helicopters.

Even before the current delay, the drones generated controversy. In 2015, when the order was approved by the Swiss parliament, there was criticism about the purchase of Israeli military technology. And in Jaunary 2022, a Senate committee issued a report stating that the purchase represented a “considerable risk” for Switzerland.

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SWI swissinfo.ch - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI swissinfo.ch - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR