Switzerland exported 873 million Swiss francs (US$973.5 million) worth of military equipment last year, up 36% over the previous year, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).
Seco said that Switzerland exported 640 million Swiss francs worth of equipment in 2010 and that the increase last year was mainly due to the sale of 25 Pilatus PC-21 trainers to the United Arab Emirates, worth SFr258.1 million. The trainers were counted as military hardware since they can be armed.
Other major weapons exports last year included armoured vehicles for Germany (SFr85.9 million) and Belgium (SFr29.3 million) and air defence systems to Germany (SFr75.2 million). A total of 68 countries, including Italy and Spain, received Swiss militar hardware.
The five main customers were the United Arab Emirates (SFr265.8 million), Germany (SFr239.6 million), Italy (SFr57.2 million), Belgium (SFr32.5 million) and Spain (SFr32.4 million).
Seco noted that Switzerland “exercised restraint” in the export of military equipment to countries in North Africa and the Middle East, especially in light of the Arab Spring movements. In 2009 it was decided to not to issue new export licenses to Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but existing contracts could still be honoured.
Of the equipment exported by Switzerland last year, a third of that was aircraft, aero engines and equipment while a fifth was armoured vehicles. Ammunition accounted for 18% of exports while fire control systems accounted for 12% of exports.
Seco noted that several export licenses were rejected, concerning three African and two Asian countries. They were for small arms and light weapons and accessories.
In 2009 Swiss voters rejected in a referendum a proposal to ban arms exports after defence companies said such a move could cost up to 10 000 jobs.
At the time, Economy Minister Doris Leuthard vowed to “strictly” review each sale of arms abroad and promised Switzerland would not sell weapons to countries that systematically violated human rights.