With the Swiss referendum on the purchase of 22 Jas Gripen aircraft underway, the fate of the country’s “Patrouille Suisse” aerobatic team also hangs in the balance.
In a statement issued by the Swiss Federal Dept. of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport, the “Patrouille Suisse” aerobatic team can be maintained only with the purchase of Gripen and it added that the Swedish aircraft “is the right choice for Switzerland.”
“The 54 F-5E Tiger IIs have now been flying for over 30 years and must be retired from service as soon as possible. The purchase of the Gripen is an investment in our security until 2050,” the statement added.
It also warned that “from mid-2016, without the acquisition of Gripen, Switzerland would have no more than 32 combat aircraft, and its security could not be adequately insured in extraordinary situations.”
A decision on the referendum on the deal is expected to be held on May 18th. Opponents of the deal submitted over 100,000 signatures seeking a referendum, with campaigners hoping to block the Gripen sale.
Meanwhile, SAAB is accused of attempting to influence a Swiss referendum that could determine whether or not the Swiss air force purchases 22 new JAS Gripen jets.
The aircraft-maker is accused of quietly funding campaigns in favor of the deal (worth $3.4 billion) by Swiss lawmakers.
Saab has neither confirmed nor denied the accusations, citing Swiss rules which "also include refraining from comment on campaign financing".