ZURICH, April 25 Switzerland will postpone
delivery of 22 Gripen jets from Saab by about two
years so it can co-ordinate its purchase with a larger deal from
Sweden and possibly save on costs, the government said on
"We hope... to realise certain synergies in the production
and development of the programme," Defence Minister Ueli Maurer
said at a news conference.
The Swiss government said it would be advantageous to
co-ordinate its acquisition with Sweden's expected purchase of
between 60 and 80 planes. The bill for Switzerland's 22 new
Gripens would remain below 3.126 billion Swiss francs ($3.43
billion), it said.
Switzerland has wrangled for three years over how to replace
its aged Northrop F-5E/F Tiger fighters, purchased in 1976 and
1981. In November the government opted to buy 22 JAS-39 Gripens
for a price tag of 3.1 billion Swiss francs ($3.4 bln).
But the purchase of the warplanes has proved controversial,
as it will require spending cuts in other areas, such as
education and agriculture.
Sweden's parliament is expected to vote on its jet purchase
in September, and the Swiss parliament has the Gripen purchase
on its agenda for October, a spokeswoman for the Swiss defence
The two countries were still in negotiations and further
details still had to be ironed out, she also said.
Earlier this month, Switzerland said it would consider
alternative bids after test reports published by the
SonntagsZeitung newspaper suggested the Gripen did not "meet
minimum expected capabilities".
($1=0.9117 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Catherine Bosley; Editing by Mike Nesbit)