Swiss to vote on $3.4 bln purchase of 22 Saab fighter jets

ZURICH Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:25am EST

ZURICH Jan 29 (Reuters) - The Swiss government said the proposed purchase of 22 Gripen fighter jets from Swedish defence firm Saab will be put to a popular vote on May 18, after Swiss voters successfully forced a referendum on the $3.4 billion deal.

The deal was approved by both houses of parliament last year, but Gripens are unpopular with some in Switzerland, which hasn't fought an international war for 200 years, because the deal will require cost cuts in other areas, such as education.

Switzerland had opted to replace its fleet of ageing Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters with the Gripen jets, as a cheaper alternative to the Eurofighter Typhoon, developed by a consortium of BAE, Finmeccanica and EADS , and Dassault Aviation's Rafale jet.

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