BERN, SWITZERLAND – Public outcries over Swiss Defense Minister Ueli Maurer’s announcement that the country can no longer afford to keep the Patrouille Suisse aerobatics planes have a new target, the colour of the planes.
Maurer said Tuesday 19 February that he was surprised by the outrage over his announcement, given that a decision had been made weeks earlier not to keep the Tiger F-5 planes the team uses.
It would cost the Swiss military an additional CHF50 million a year to maintain the famous red and white planes, at a time when military budgets are being stretched to pay for new Gripen fighter jets.
The problem, he told a Swiss German media, comes down to the number of military planes that can be kept. The air force currently has 54 Tigers, of which 11 are painted to match the Swiss flag, for the flying aerobatics team.
They will be able to continue for a couple years, but then the Tigers will be retired and Switzerland will have 55 Grippens and F/A-18 jets. The air force can’t realistically paint 10 of them red and white, he says.
But the air force has enough planes and trained pilots to continue having an aerobatics team; whether they will fly camouflage Gripens or F/A-18s is the question, according to Maurer.