Swiss réduit reduced yet further

An era comes to an end in the Alps on Wednesday when the guns of the bunker on the Lukmanier pass are fired for the last time.

This content was published on June 21, 2011 - 15:53 and agencies

The fortress artillery battalion will be disbanded. Those members who are still liable for military service will be allocated elsewhere.

The dissolution of the battalion is part of the plan announced last October by Defence Minister Ueli Maurer to close down the bunker system.

He acknowledged at the time that closing the bunkers “would be the end of the réduit concept” –  Switzerland’s strategy of creating a heavily fortified region centred on the Gotthard, which no invading enemy would ever be able to take.

Maurer announced at the end of last month that the remaining four locations with bisons – 15.5cm calibre cannons – were to be taken out of service, since neither they nor the fortress mortars would be of much use in repelling invaders.

Decommissioning will cost SFr53 million ($62.9 million) but is expected to save SFr30 million a year.

Modern facilities will be maintained, and the barracks used for other things.

Most of Switzerland’s Alpine fortresses were built just before or during the Second World War,  but remained secret until the 1990s.

Since then some have been opened as museums while others have been transformed for various uses, including high-security storage for data, archives and valuables, or as hotels or accommodation for asylum seekers.

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