Swiss Parliament Backs Purchase of 22 Saab Gripen Fighter Jets

The Swiss parliament backed the purchase of 22 Gripen combat jets from Sweden’s Saab AB for 3.1 billion Swiss francs ($3.4 billion) with opponents given about three months to seek a national vote on the deal.

Legislators representing Switzerland’s regions endorsed the deal by a vote of 25 to 17, the Swiss government said today. In the lower house, the national council, 119 members backed the purchase and 71 opposed, with four abstentions.

Switzerland plans to spend about 300 million francs per year on purchasing the combat planes over a 10-year period as it replaces aging Northrop Grumman Corp. F-5 Tigers. The Swiss and Swedish governments have agreed to work jointly on the larger next generation Gripen NG. Sweden plans to field 60 of the jets, with deliveries to start in 2018.

Swiss opponents of the deal, including the Social Democrats and Greens, have 100 days to collect the required 50,000 signatures to trigger a national vote, the government said. The referendum would take place in May or September.

Saab CEO Haakan Buskhe said this week he expects a referendum. The company this month raised its long-term forecast for Gripen sales to 400 to 450 jets from about 300.

Saab shares rose as much as 2 percent in Stockholm. They traded 0.4 percent higher at 132.40 Swedish krona at 4 p.m. local time, valuing the aerospace and defense company at 14.4 billion krona ($2.2 billion).

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. and Dassault Aviation SA were the losing bidders in a competition to supply Switzerland with new combat planes. The Swiss government still has to decide how to replace its fleet of Boeing Co. F/A-18 Hornets.

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