ZURICH Jan 29 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
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.