Brazil has chosen the Saab Gripen E as its new fighter aircraft, after years of indecision. Defense Minister Celso Amorim and Brazilian air force commander Bg. Juniti Saito announced their preference for the Swedish jet over the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale after authorization from President Dilma Rousseff. Previous attempts to decide the FX-2 competition failed at the political level.
The contract for 36 aircraft is expected to be finalized by the end of next year. It is valued at $4.5 billion over a nine-year period. Amorim said that performance, technology transfer and acquisition costs including maintenance were the deciding factors. Saito said that several Brazilian companies would contribute to the project, and upon its completion, Brazil would have full access to the technology of the aircraft. Although the Gripens will be replacing Mirage 2000s that the service is retiring this month, deliveries won’t start until four years after the contract is signed, at the rate of 12 per year.
The decision was welcomed in Sweden by the Prime Minister and by Saab, which noted that the package included “long-term collaboration between the Brazilian and Swedish governments.” Saab CEO Hakan Buskhe said the company would provide the Brazilian air force with “the world-leading and most affordable fighter.”
A spokeswoman for Dassault expressed regret about the decision, noting, “The Gripen is a lighter, single-engine aircraft that does not match the Rafale in terms of performance and therefore does not carry the same price tag.” She claimed that the Rafale would have been a more cost-effective choice, with equal if not superior technology transfer on offer.
As for the Super Hornet, Boeing’s prospects may have been damaged by revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency had been monitoring official Brazilian government communications.
Coincidentally, Saab announced the receipt of a contract worth SEK 186 million ($28.4 million) to integrate the MBDA Meteor BVRAAM on the Gripen E. The Swedish jet already served as a testbed for Meteor firings, ahead of its integration on the Dassault Rafale and Euroighter Typhoon.