* Switzerland plans to buy 22 Gripen jets
* Parliament to discuss deal in September
* Swiss people may have final say
(Adds Saab reaction)
By Silke Koltrowitz
ZURICH, Aug 27 A parliamentary committee has
backed Switzerland's purchase of 22 Gripen fighter jets from
Sweden's Saab, clearing a major hurdle for the $3.4
The security committee of Switzerland's lower house of
parliament supported the government's proposal to purchase the
fighters by 14 to 9 votes, committee president Chantal Gallade
told journalists in Winterthur.
The financing package was also approved by a large majority,
SAAB shares jumped almost 6 percent on the news, which had
been revealed by a Swiss newspaper ahead of the media briefing.
The lower house of parliament will discuss the deal on Sept.
11. It is likely to follow the committee's recommendation, but
even if both houses of parliament approve the deal it can still
be derailed by a popular referendum.
"We are naturally very pleased by the decision of the
security committee," said Lennart Sindahl, senior executive vice
president and head of Saab's aeronautics business area, in a
statement, adding the company was continuing to assemble the
pre-production Gripen E.
Gallade said the committee, which had postponed discussing
the deal in April awaiting further details, had obtained
reassuring information on arbitration procedures and penalty
payments. The two parties agreed on an upfront payment of 40
percent of the total sum, she said.
"The majority of the committee thinks the risks are
manageable," Gallade said. "It estimates we don't need a
Rolls-Royce but a machine that meets the needs of our air
Switzerland opted for the Gripen as a cheaper alternative to
the Eurofighter Typhoon, developed by a consortium of BAE
, Finmeccanica and EADS, and Dassault
Aviation's Rafale jet.
Switzerland, which hasn't fought an international war for
200 years, wants the Gripen jets to replace its aging Northrop
F-5 Tiger fighters, a move unpopular with some because it will
require cost cuts in other areas, such as education.
The deal has already been delayed several times. In March,
the upper house of parliament halted the purchase when it
approved it in principle but voted against the required
The upper house will discuss the matter again on Sept. 18.
In order to sweeten the deal, Saab has pledged to find Swiss
suppliers for major components of the jets.
Sindahl said Saab's suppliers had so far signed 456
contracts with 117 Swiss companies valued at 315 million Swiss
In Switzerland, a referendum can be held on federal laws if
at least 50,000 people or eight cantons have petitioned for one
within 100 days of the item's official publication.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Mark Potter and