Swiss keep fighter jet plans

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The Swiss government said Thursday it was keeping plans for a multi-billion dollar contract to replace army fighter jets.

Geneva -- The Swiss government said Thursday that it was still keeping plans for a multi-billion dollar contract to replace army fighter jets despite reports that the defence minister was thinking of cancelling it.

Europe's EADS, French firm Dassault and Sweden's Saab are competing for the contract to replace part of the Swiss army's ageing fleet of US-made F-5 "Tiger" fighters in 2011.

"The Federal Council has decided to stick to the timetable fixed in March for the partial replacement of the Tiger fleet," the government said in a statement after a cabinet meeting.

However, it also acknowledged the "critical financial situation" of the army and asked the defence ministry to draft an evaluation of its finances.

The Swiss army has been carrying out test flights in recent months with the EADS Eurofighter, Dassault's Rafale and Saab's Gripen, ahead of the scheduled choice in spring 2010.

But recent Swiss media reports indicated that the CHF 2.2 billion (USD 2.2 billion, EUR 1.5 billion) budget set aside for the new aircraft may not be enough, and that the required fleet of about 20 would cost CHF 7.0 billion.

The daily Tages-Anzeiger quoted unnamed sources as saying that Defence Minister Ueli Maurer, who took office earlier in 2009, asked the government to cancel the purchase.

AFP / Expatica

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