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Controversial choice of fighter jet defended

Defence Minister Ueli Maurer has justified the cabinet’s decision to buy 22 fighter jets from Sweden, discounting allegations of ignoring unfavourable evaluation reports.

He said the Gripen fighter aircraft was a pragmatic choice and met all the requirements to replace the ageing F-5 Tiger fleet of the Swiss air force.

Maurer said that leaked confidential documents referred to outdated evaluation results.

However, he acknowledged that, contrary to an earlier defence ministry statement, he did know the contents of documents leaked to the Sunday press but had initially believed that that the reports were based on new documents.

Maurer said the reports could be part of efforts to disrupt the acquisition of the Swedish jets by opponents, including disgruntled rival aircraft companies or political opponents.

He added he expected to face further opposition as parliament is set to discuss government spending cuts to compensate for higher army expenditure later this year.

Centre-left parties have called for an immediate suspension of the acquisition to clarify the details of the defence ministry’s evaluation procedure. Centre-right parties criticised the ministry’s information policy and said some questions remained unanswered.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR