* Defence minister wants to spend cash elsewhere
* German, French, Swedish aircraft makers competing for deal
ZURICH, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The Swiss government might drop or postpone a plan worth 2.2 billion Swiss francs ($2.17 billion) to buy new fighter aircraft, media reported on Thursday.
Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer asked the cabinet on Wednesday to drop the project and spend the money instead on other equipment, logistics and military buildings, Swiss media cited defence ministry sources as saying.
A defence ministry spokesman would only say that the cabinet would take a final decision on the jets as planned in January.
Boeing (BA.N) pulled out of the bidding last year. That leaves 3 jets in the race -- the 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 (SAABb.ST).
If selected, the Eurofighters would be built in Germany.
The Neue Zuercher Zeitung daily quoted an unnamed ministry insider as saying Maurer thought a delay to the project was justified given acute needs for spending elsewhere even though the military still needed fighters.
Switzerland said in March it would delay a decision until at least 2010 after a report due out in December on the country’s defence policy.
The project has been unpopular in Switzerland from the start and made more so by the financial crisis. There was also speculation in March that the delay was a reprisal against Germany for its campaign against Swiss bank secrecy.
Switzerland had 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 a recent defence ministry report said that Switzerland would not even be able to buy 22 planes with its current budget. (Reporting by Andrew Thompson, writing by Emma Thomasson)