Swiss Reject Gripen Buy in Referendum

 - May 19, 2014, 4:30 AM
The Saab Gripen EF demonstrator in flight over Sweden. The Swiss people rejected their government's plan to buy 22 of them. (Photo: Saab)

Swiss citizens have rejected their government’s plan to buy 22 Saab Gripen E combat aircraft in a referendum. The verdict was not unexpected, since recent opinion polls had shown a majority against the plan, despite its previous approval by the Swiss parliament. However, the “no” vote majority was only 53.4 percent. Under Switzerland’s unique version of democracy, many significant or controversial matters of public policy are decided in this way.

Switzerland chose the Gripen after a thorough and protracted evaluation. A framework agreement worth about $3.5 billion was signed in February last year.

In a statement, Saab refrained from direct comment on the poll. But the Swedish company noted that more than 500 contracts with 125 Swiss businesses have already been arranged in connection with the proposed buy. Some of these are with Saab, but most are with partners and suppliers to Saab. “Saab will continue working with Swiss companies and contracts placed will be honored, subject to their terms and conditions,” the company said.

Saab noted that development of the Gripen E continues, with 60 ordered by Sweden. Deliveries are slated to start in 2018. Negotiations regarding 36 Gripen NGs to Brazil are “ongoing and according to plan with the ambition from both parties that an agreement should be signed this year,” the company added. Last week, the Czech Republic renewed a lease agreement with Sweden for 14 Gripen C/Ds for another 12 years. The original 10-year lease began in 2005. Hungary, South Africa and Thailand are the other Gripen customers.