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Swiss could spend SFr30 billion on military hardware

The Super Puma helicopter may become obsolete if defence spending increases Keystone Archive

The defence minister, Samuel Schmid, is proposing a SFr30 billion refurbishment of the Swiss military over the next 15 years, according to reports in a number of the Swiss Sunday newspapers.

This content was published on April 30, 2001 - 09:17

In the German-language "SonntagsBlick", Schmid declined to comment on precise details of the defence budget, but confirmed that pressure to invest in the Swiss military "increases every year".

Schmid rejected the suggestion that neutral Switzerland did not need to purchase such military hardware.

"What we take for granted today," Schmid told the paper, "may not be the same in the future.

"Of course a tank strike against Switzerland is not very likely, but thousands of tanks are still in service around Europe and we must ensure that Switzerland remains at the forefront of the latest technology."

The paper claims to have received a copy of the defence minister's classified "wish list" of military purchases. Included on the list, the paper says, are armed transport helicopters, next-generation fighter jets and sophisticated radar and tracking equipment.

Schmid, who took over the defence portfolio at the beginning of the year, denied the government had made a decision on whether to place an SFr4 billion order for a new fighter jet to replace the controversial F/A-18 aircraft currently in service.

But he reiterated the government's position that Switzerland should not be allowed to fall behind other countries in the amount it spends on defence.

"In order to retain our autonomy," said Schmid, "we must ensure our military equipment is as up-to-date as possible."

Asked whether the introduction of more new technology would mark the disappearance of such traditional symbols of the Swiss military as soldiers on horseback, Schmid said tradition was an inevitable price to pay for progress in technology.

"I realise that change can be difficult," he said, "but we must be pragmatic. Young soldiers today look at CNN and wonder whether their own equipment would really be of use in an emergency."

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