Sweden’s Plan to Impact Swiss Gripen Deal
(Source: Radio Sweden; published Feb 12, 2014)
Swedish Radio News has obtained documents outlining Sweden’s plans to impact a referendum in Switzerland which could determine whether or not the Swiss air force purchases 22 new Jas Gripen fighter jets. A number of defence authorities, several members of the Swedish Cabinet Office as well as seven Swedish ministers have been made aware of the plans.
The issue of foreign meddling in the Swiss referendum is highly controversial. That became clear a few weeks ago when rumours spread that Gripen manufacturer Saab had financed campaigners who are in favour of the Swiss air force deal. Saab faced a lot of criticism and media attention then.
Now, several Swedish ministers are denying any knowledge of the secret deal which the Swedish state is involved in. One of them is Minister for Trade, Ewa Björling.
“I don’t know anything about that. I think that question should be put to Saab and to FXM, the Swedish Defence and Security Export Agency,” Björling tells Swedish Radio News. She adds that, to her knowledge, the government is not involved in any such activities.
Carl Bildt, Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs, also denies any knowledge of Sweden’s efforts to impact the Swiss referendum.
“No, we’re not involved in the Swiss referendum,” says Bildt. He adds that the Swedish embassy in Switzerland does cooperate with the Swiss Department of Defence, but that is par for the course, says Bildt.
Asked whether Sweden is involved in any attempts to secure a yes vote in the referendum, Bildt says: “I don’t know and there’s no way I could know about all the Swedish activities within a referendum campaign. I hardly know what’s going on in the Swedish election campaign.”
But in the past few months, Björling and Bildt, along with five other Swedish ministers, have received classified reports from the Swedish ambassador in Switzerland, Per Thöresson. Those reports outline the entire Swedish operation.
In the letters, Thöresson explains that the Swiss minister for defence, Ueli Maurer, had asked Sweden to assist Switzerland on the referendum. His wish was for Sweden to arrange as many activities as possible that would encourage the Swiss people to vote in favour of the Jas Gripen deal.
The activities started this autumn. There were many talks and meetings, including one where Thöresson, Saab representatives, Swedish and Swiss army officers and representatives of various authorities discussed the plans for Sweden’s involvement.
The Swedish embassy would arrange an exclusive interview with Bildt and place positive articles about Sweden in Swiss media. Sweden would also arrange a series of concerts and seminars.
Thöresson wanted Swiss television to cover Maurer’s participation in this year’s Vasa ski race in Sweden. And Maurer wanted to arrange regular air shows with Gripen jets in Switzerland, including during the Alpine Ski World Cup in March. The idea is to give the Swiss people as positive an image as possible of Sweden.
According to Thöresson’s classified letter, Maurer had “given his blessing” to the detailed plan. In a letter dated December 17th, Thöresson wrote: “The only thing that’s left to do now is to win the referendum.”
Reporters from Swedish Radio asked Thöresson about the secret plan. He answered: “This is not a list intended to impact public opinion, it’s a list of all the events that we have planned and I have deemed that other people should be informed about those plans so that we, on the Swedish side, can coordinate our activities, and so that we don’t send out contradictory signals.”
Thöresson did not want to answer follow-up questions from Swedish Radio News, saying he cannot comment on classified documents. (ends)
Gripen Is Part of the Army’s Total Package
(Source: Swiss Federal Dept. of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport; issued Feb 11, 2014)
(Unofficial English translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
BERN --- The Swiss Air Force is tasked by the Federal Council with the protection and defense of our airspace. Part of the combat aircraft fleet with which it can carry out these missions are obsolete.
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 Federal Council and Parliament therefore decided to replace those 54 F-5 Tiger fighters with 22 Gripen Es. As the Air Force is the only instrument capable of ensuring security in the air, the Federal Council and Parliament recommend approval of the Law on the Gripen Fund.
Switzerland is one of the most prosperous and safest countries in the world. Security and prosperity are values that depend closely on each other and are therefore inseparable. Ensuring the security of Switzerland is the main task of the army, which thereby creates the conditions for us to live in an independent and prosperous country.
As a nation free of all military alliances, Switzerland must ensure its security on its own. We also expected that Switzerland jointly contribute to security in Europe. For this reason, the Federal Council and Parliament agreed to replace the fleet of F-5 Tigers, which are over 30 years old, with new combat aircraft.
The Swiss armed forces are a global system which must also include a strong Air Force. While security on the ground can be ensured by various components, the Air Force is the only way to guarantee security in the air. It protects airspace, providing air policing and carrying out each day a combination of surveillance and air defense missions. The Air Force is therefore essential, and it must be properly equipped. Besides sensors, helicopters, UAVs and air defense, it is imperative that it have a sufficient number of modern combat aircraft.
The purchase of the Gripen is an investment in our security until 2050. In order to maintain the effectiveness of the armed forces in the near term, it is essential to replace the now outdated F-5 Tiger as soon as possible. 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.
It is also would no longer be possible to guarantee that national airspace could be monitored 24/24 and 365 days a year. Finally, the “Patrouille Suisse” aerobatic team can be maintained only with the purchase of Gripen.
Gripen E is the right choice for Switzerland.
Its radar, weapons, modern means of communications and reconnaissance, sophisticated electronic equipment of last generation, and a complete self-defense system are some of the advantages of this aircraft, which not only meets military requirements but also represents the most advantageous solution in terms of acquisition and maintenance costs.
The purchase of 22 Gripen E translates into a cost of just CHF 300 million per year between 2014 and 2024. This amount, which corresponds to about half of one percent of Federal expenditures, will be financed from within the regular armed forces budget. The acquisition of 22 Gripen E is a realistic solution.
In addition, the purchase of Gripen will have a double impact that will prove more positive for the Swiss economy. First, by the offset business it will generate: amounting to CHF 2.5 billion, these contracts will guarantee jobs for 10,000 people/day. Secondly, because the investments affect an economic sector that is particularly interesting from a technological point of view.
For all these reasons, the Federal Council and Parliament recommend accepting the Law on the Gripen Fund, and thereby ensure that the Swiss homeland can continue to have a waterproof roof through effective aircraft.