French Bid To Outmanuever Opposing Fighters in Brazil

 - September 14, 2009, 11:59 AM

A top-level handshake in Brazil earlier this month does not necessarily mean the end of that country’s long quest to select a new fighter. Presidents Lula and Sarkozy proclaimed a strategic aerospace partnership after the French leader made a two-day state visit to Brazil. They discussed the sale of 36 Rafale combat jets to the Forca Aerea Brasiliera (FAB), with 10 of Embraer’s proposed new KC-390 military transport jets going to France in partial return. But although Sarkozy said that exclusive negotiations would now start, the Brazilian Ministry of Defense told both Boeing (proposing the F/A-18 Super Hornet) and Saab (offering the Gripen) that the competition was not yet over. A Boeing spokesman told AIN that the formal FAB evaluation would not be completed until the end of the month. All three finalists in the FAB contest are offering significant offsets, technology transfer and local production of the successful fighter, if required. Lula cited these considerations as key to his favoring the French offer. Brazil has recently done deals with France for five submarines and 50 Eurocopter Cougar helicopters. Embraer launched the KC-390 last April but has yet to select key suppliers. The French team of Dassault, Snecma and Thales has not yet secured an export order for the Rafale. Sarkozy was accompanied by a strong delegation comprising seven ministers and 25 business leaders, including former Dassault chairman Serge Dassault.