> our title:

Swiss Upper House Approves Purchase of Hermes 900 UAVs

> original title:

Switzerland Buys New Reconnaissance Drone

(Source: Swiss Dept. of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports; issued Sept 7, 2015)

After the National Council, the Council of States has in turn decided in favor of the 2015 armaments program to the tune of 542 million Swiss francs. This provides for the replacement of three systems that are reaching the end of their useful life. It is planned to acquire six new reconnaissance drones, new shooting simulators for Assault Rifle 90 and 879 light all-terrain vehicles for technical systems.

Switzerland buys new reconnaissance drone

Last June, the National Council adopted Armaments Program 2015 by 130 votes against 55, with one abstention. The Council of States has now followed suit, by 31 votes against 5, and 9 abstentions.

The proposal of the parliamentary left to renounce acquiring new reconnaissance drones was clearly rejected. The minority motivated its request citing too many ethical, policy and practical uncertainties.

Defence Minister Ueli Maurer argued that an acquisition in Israel does not go against the international law, although the country is involved in armed conflict. He added that security is an essential element for a country. These reconnaissance drones allow us to fill a gap that has existed for some time, and serves the protection of the Swiss population.


The Ranger 95 system of reconnaissance drones has been operating for twenty years. It is obsolete and replacement parts can no longer be purchased. A thorough evaluation recommended the acquisition of the Hermes 900 HFE system of unarmed reconnaissance drones built by Elbit Systems.

As for the shooting simulator for 90 assault rifle, it is in service since 1993. The maintenance costs are increasing and spare parts can also not be purchased. It is planned to replace it with a new technology of shooting simulator.

Furthermore, the Federal Council intends to replace the current systems for vehicle Steyr-Daimler-Puch 230 GE with the light all-terrain vehicle for technical systems developed from the chassis of the Mercedes-Benz G 300 CDI 4x4. The costs of maintenance and repair of these vehicles, acquired 25 years ago, in fact exceed permissible economically limits.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Given that the Mercedes Benz G-wagen is, in fact, closely derived from the Steyr-Daimler-Puch 230 GE, the Swiss decision was taken purely on grounds of affordable product support, which cannot be ignored as it once was for military equipment.)


The Army Will Buy Israeli Drones for 250 Million Francs

(Source: swissinfo.ch; published Sep 7, 2015)

(Published in French; unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)

The Swiss army is buying Israeli drones worth 250 million francs. The Council of States approved the purchase Monday by 30 votes against 12. A left-wing minority, which argued in particular on human rights issues, failed to block the acquisition.

National defense will be equipped six unarmed Hermes 900 reconnaissance drones, made by the Israeli company Elbit. These aircraft capture images of the ground situation and identify targets in case of combat. They will start operating after the current system is retired.

The Hermes fleet is intended for use by the Corps of Border Guards. "It's not a combat model, but it acts as a scout. We do not intend to arm it," said Defence Minister Ueli Maurer.

Opponents to the sale focused on the actions of the State of Israel in the Palestinian Territories. The manufacturer is not the state but a private company, insisted Maurer.

“While it is true that neutral Switzerland is not entitled to support another country at war, for example by selling military equipment to Israel, the situation is different in case of imports. There are no problems in terms of human rights," the minister said.

On the humanitarian level, "it is true that the Jewish state kills civilians," he acknowledged. But we must consider that Israel must defend itself against attackers who hide among the civilian population. If we do not bought these drones, it would be a boycott," he added.

"Our current drones come from Israel, so should we stop using them?" asked Senator Isidor Baumann on behalf of the majority, adding that the military need these aircraft, which "also perform better in all quality criteria at an affordable price to ensure aerial surveillance of our territory."

Drone tested in the Gaza Strip

"Israel does not respect the human rights, sometimes by extremely violent means," argued Luc Recordon (Greens / VD) on behalf of the minority. Switzerland is the depositary of the Geneva Conventions that Israel violates in part. "This case is also bad for our image," he said.

Tel Aviv has used this drone to attack in the Gaza Strip in 2014, added Géraldine Savary (PS / VD). Their maintenance will be carried out not only in Switzerland but also by the manufacturer. The Confederation will therefore create a long-term relationship with a company close to the Israeli military.

Senators in plenary session voted like their committee, and refused to act on a petition against the purchase of such aircraft "made in Israel" by 25 votes to 13 against and 7 abstentions.

Supplementary program worth 874 million francs

The Armaments Program 2015 is not restricted to drones. The government also wants to procure new generation of shooting simulators for the Assault Rifle 90 (21 million francs), and light off-road vehicles for technical systems (271 million francs). The cost therefore increases to 542 million francs, clearly approved in the final vote.

And it will not be all for this year. The Federal Council submitted in August a supplementary Armament Plan worth 874 million francs, pushing the overall value to 1.416 billion francs, spread over the years 2016 to 2022. In financial terms, the Armaments Program 2014 (at 771 million francs) and 2013 (740 million francs) are left far behind.

The reason is the popular vote which refused to buy the Gripen combat aircraft. The right wing of Parliament, which refused the Federal Council’s attempt to allocate to other departments the 800 million francs saved by not buying the Swedish jet, demanded that the military buy additional equipment with the set-aside amount.

As part of the complementary program, the modernization of 2220 all-terrain light trucks is the biggest expense. The extension of their service life until 2040 will cost 558 million.