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Switzerland has decided to put on temporary hold plans to replace about half its ageing F-5 Northrop Grumman Tiger combat planes. Defense Minister Ueli Maurer said the postponement would "last at most until 2015" and had been sparked by the global economic slowdown, which, in turn, led to budgetary constraints. The decision was taken just days before the Alpine nation was due to announce the results of the tender for which three aircraft, EADS' Eurofighter, Saab's Gripen and Dassault's Rafale were being evaluated.Meanwhile, Jakob Baumann, the procurement chief, has handed in his resignation. It was no secret that he and Maurer did not get along.The contract for the 22-aircraft tender was worth originally some 2.2 billion Swiss francs ($2.14 billion) but would likely have cost between 3.5 and 4.8 billion Swiss francs once equipment and infrastructure was included. The tender was launched in January 2008.Swiss media report that Maurer has been one of the tender's staunchest opponents since he assumed his duties 11 months ago. He feared that purchasing the aircraft would stymie any other major military purchases for at least eight years. The project is now in the hands of the departments of defense and finance which must find a solution by the end of next year. But it is also a political one and how Switzerland intends to develop its armed forces will only be clarified once its report on the matter is adopted in the next few months.Saab said it respected Switzerland's decision but could be secretly quite pleased as it gives it more time to finalise the Gripen NG for the next round of the tender. The other two industrialists have kept mum.
ar99, Switzerland, tacair
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