* Defence ministry paper proposes hiking aircraft budget
* Paper confirms plan is for 22 jets-TV report
By Andrew Thompson
ZURICH, Aug 18 The Swiss defence ministry is
proposing to spend as much as 5 billion Swiss francs ($4.80
billion) to finance an unpopular plan to buy 22 new fighter
jets, Swiss television said citing an internal document.
According to a consultation document dated July 29, Defence
Minister Ueli Maurer is planning to ask the Swiss cabinet to
raise the procurement budget for the jets to 5 billion francs
even though the plan could be shot down in a national
The Swiss jet deal is hotly contested within the
international aerospace industry as it is seen as setting the
stage for a number of upcoming projects in Europe.
Boeing (BA.N) pulled out of the bidding last year, leaving
three other contenders: Anglo-German-Italian Eurofighter, built
by EADS EAD.PA with BAE Systems (BAES.L) and Finmeccanica
SIFI.MI; France's Rafale, built by Dassault Aviation
(AVMD.PA); and the JAS 39 Gripen, built by Sweden's Saab
A Swiss defence ministry spokesman confirmed the document
existed, but would not comment on the details.
He added that the July 29 paper was still subject to
revisions and that a final request would be presented to the
cabinet in September.
Switzerland has wanted to replace its ageing Northrop
(NOC.N) F-5E/F Tiger fighters, purchased in 1976 and 1981, with
up to 33 new aircraft.
But the defence ministry has said it could not even afford
22, given its current budget. The programme, which had an
initial price tag of 2.2 billion francs, has become increasingly
unpopular given the economic crisis.
To finance the deal, Maurer will ask for the overall defence
budget, which covers both army and airforce, to be raised by 2
billion Swiss francs to 6.3 billion Swiss francs annually.
Additionally, he will propose a reduction in the size of the
Swiss Army to 96,000 staff from currently 135,000 staff,
television reported on Tuesday.
($1=1.042 Swiss Franc)
(Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)