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Swiss army can go shopping at last

The new ballistic helmet is said to offer soldiers better protection during combat Keystone

The Swiss Army can finally purchase an air surveillance system, combat simulation equipment and helmets after getting the go-ahead from parliament.

The Senate has approved a new version of the military’s arms procurement programme for 2004, after the army’s original wish list was sent back to the drawing board in March.

This had marked the first time in political history that the two houses of parliament had failed to agree on such a package.

The military’s original request was rejected earlier this year because it included two air transporters, which would have cost SFr109 million ($90.8 million).

Opposition to this purchase united both left and right factions in the two chambers.

However, the Senate on Wednesday voted in favour of a revised programme – which was submitted by the government in April – by 33 votes to two.

The House of Representatives gave its approval to the plan on Monday.

Cutting costs

The pared-down procurement budget now stands at SFr409 million, a significant reduction on the original proposal, which would have cost SFr647 million.

A large part of the money (SFr268 million) will go towards Florako, an electronic data transfer system for air surveillance.

In addition, SFr35 million will be spent on ballistic helmets and SFr95 million on a combat simulation system.

For 2005 the defence ministry has applied for just over SFr1 billion for its military shopping list. It is hoping to purchase 20 new transport and training helicopters.

Defence Minister Samuel Schmid also wants to shell out SFr150 million on an Israeli-made telecommunications system.

In March restrictions on arms deals between Switzerland and Israel were lifted, following talks in Jerusalem between Schmid and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

swissinfo with agencies

Parliament has accepted the army’s procurement programme for 2004.

It now has SFr409 million at its disposal.

The money will go towards buying an electronic data transfer system for air surveillance, 105,000 helmets and a combat simulation system.

The original proposal would have cost SFr647 million and included two air transporters.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR