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Bern outlines air base and arsenal closures

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Bern outlines air base and arsenal closures
Sion airport. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
11:41 CET+01:00
The Swiss army is shutting down three air bases and numerous other installations as part of a plan to meet plans to slim down the military by a third, the department of defence said on Tuesday.

The plan calls for the closure of the Sion military air base in the canton of Valais, along with those in Buochs, in the canton of Nidwalden, and Dübenforf, in the canton of Zurich, the department said in a news release.

The army is also planning to shut down arsenals in Fribourg, Moudon (in the canton of Vaud), Lyss (in the canton of Bern) and Saint Maurice (in the canton of Valais).

Shooting practice areas in Glaubenberg (Uri), Brigels (Graübunden) and and Gluringen (Valais) are also slated to be closed.

The defence department said the closures will eliminate 300 jobs, which should be absorbed through natural attrition.

The measures, to be phased over several years, are needed to meet requirements set by Swiss parliament in 2011 to reduce the size of the army to 100,000 soldiers from 150,000 while capping the annual military budget at five million francs.

The plan has been submitted to cantons for comment by January 2014 but it has already met with opposition in some quarters.

Yannick Buttet, head of the Sion city council executive and a federal MP, said the closure of the air base in his municipality would be a “catastrophe for the Valais economy and for Sion,” 20 Minutes reported.

Sion's airport also has civilian use and it is expected to continue operating, while military activities are transferred to Payerne in the canton of Vaud.

Meantime, French-language state broadcaster RTS reported that there are plans to convert the arsenal in Moudon into a federal asylum centre with a capacity to eventually hold 544 individuals.

Vaud cabinet minister Philippe Leuba said that such a scenario was “unrealistic” and “unacceptable” for a community with only 5,000 residents.

Defence Minister and current Swiss President Ueli Maurer indicated that no such decisions have been made, telling a press conference in Bern that “many options are open and must be discussed”.

As to the planned air base closures, “we no longer have enough planes to justify all our aerodromes,” Maurer said.  

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