ZURICH May 30 Switzerland could eventually be
in the market for as many as 70 new fighter jets or as few as 20
under scenarios laid out on Tuesday by a defence ministry task
force examining how to replace the neutral country's ageing air
The most expensive and powerful option would be to buy 55-70
aircraft and ground-based air defence weapons for an estimated
15 billion to 18 billion Swiss francs ($15.3-$18.4 billion),
according to the report.
It did not say which aircraft the government should
The least expensive option would be procuring 20 jets and
accompanying ground-based air defence systems for 5 billion
francs. Other options called for buying 40 or 30 new aircraft
plus surface-to-air defence support.
Switzerland is looking to replace its fleet of Boeing
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C and D Hornets and outdated Northrop
F-5 Tigers, all of which are scheduled to be retired in
The cheapest option would mean keeping the F/A-18s in
service longer than planned, the panel said.
It suggested the government decide by 2020 what kind of jets
to buy and to finance the deal via the regular defence budget.
That would help avoid the risk of having to subject the
purchase to a popular referendum under the Swiss system of
direct democracy. Voters in 2014 shot down plans to buy 22
Gripen E fighters made by Swedish company Saab AB.
($1 = 0.9802 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Greg Mahlich)