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Armasuisse: Switzerland should make arms purchases with Europeans

Updated at 07 Mar 2024 4:10 am

Armasuisse CEO Urs Loher sees a situation similar to the Cold War and wants to strengthen domestic armaments. Switzerland should also coordinate its arms procurement with other European countries and participate in their orders.

"We usually need much smaller quantities than other countries. So there is room for us," said Loher in an interview with Tamedia published on Thursday. However, Switzerland must also take precautions: "In the armaments projects that we are now launching, we are making sure that we can build key components ourselves in Switzerland wherever possible."

This gives Switzerland a pledge, said Loher. As an example of a pledge, he cited a safety-relevant component produced in Switzerland for the US F/A-18 fighter jet. "The manufacturer McDonnell Douglas, or Boeing, sourced this component for all jets of this type in Switzerland. This has created a mutual dependency. We are also aiming for a similar deposit system for future armaments projects."

Loher: Switzerland is perceived as unreliable

However, due to the small domestic market, the Swiss arms industry is reliant on exports, according to the head of Armasuisse, the Defense Department's competence center for procurement, technology and real estate. "The problem is that our country is increasingly perceived as unreliable when it comes to arms exports." He feels that foreign countries are becoming increasingly reluctant, with the German company Rheinmetall transferring some of its capacities out of Switzerland. "The fact that Switzerland is generally being increasingly bypassed worries me," said Loher.

"I have the impression that Switzerland is living in a bubble of illusion," continued the Armasuisse boss. "The need to invest more in defense has not been understood everywhere." He worries that people are only realizing too late that they should have acted sooner. He sees a situation like back in the Cold War. "And there, of course, deterring potential attackers with a strong, well-equipped army is essential," said Loher. "But I doubt whether our army is such a deterrent at the moment. We have a lot of catching up to do."

Potential in drones, robotics and quantum technology

While Switzerland has limitations as a production location for traditional armaments, Loher sees potential in new areas: "Switzerland is not only well positioned in drones, but also in robotics and unmanned systems as well as artificial intelligence and quantum technology," he said. "These are militarily important areas of research that we absolutely must keep in our hands."

For example, China has promised a research institute in the field of drones at the University of Zurich a lot of funding, said Loher. "We have to be careful that we don't sell out our expertise to China."

©Keystone/SDA

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