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Boeing casts net wider for Brazil jet deal

  |   July 20, 2011 at 5:53 PM
RIO DE JANEIRO, July 20 (UPI) -- The Boeing Co. cast its net wider in the campaign to secure Brazil's multibillion-dollar order for up to 100 jet fighters, pledging generous technology transfers and training for Brazilians as part of the deal.

Boeing is in competition with French Dassault Aviation's Rafale fighter jet and Swedish company Saab's Gripen NG rival.

Since U.S. President Barack Obama visited Brazil in March and met with President Dilma Rousseff, Boeing seems to have gained more support in media reports before the decision-making process reaches the next stage in 2012.

Appearances can be deceptive, however. All through 2010 Dassault's Rafale was tipped as the hot favorite to win the multibillion-dollar contract after positive comments by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and hopeful pronouncements by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Boeing backers in the Brazilian government and military have cited the company's track record and strong, possibly unrivaled, features of its offering, the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Rafale has had few buyers and Gripen has had rivals point out that its Gripen New Generation uses the General Electric F414G engine, developed from the F/A-18E/F used on the Super Hornet's engine.

Boeing Wednesday unveiled its marketing strategy at an aviation industry forum in Sao Jose dos Campos where it outlined for Brazilian businesses and universities a "broad spectrum of opportunities" available to them as part of Boeing's Super Hornet offering in the bid for the F-X2 fighter aircraft competition.

"Boeing will provide the Brazilian air force with the most advanced combat aircraft to meet its operational requirements, as well as a broad array of benefits to Brazilian industry," said Tom DeWald, Boeing Super Hornet campaign leader in Brazil.

"As the world's largest aerospace company, Boeing is well-positioned to deliver an industrial partnership program through robust technology transfer, research and development and competitive work placement opportunities with Boeing and our extended network of suppliers."

More than 100 representatives of companies, universities and industry associations joined government officials from Sao Jose dos Campos and the surrounding region at the Boeing Industry Day, which was hosted by Sao Jose dos Campos Technology Park.

"Today's forum supports our goals to foster technological innovation, revitalize local and regional economies, improve industrial competitiveness and create new jobs," said Jose de Mello Correa, Sao Jose dos Campos secretary of economic development and science and technology.

The lobbying for the contract has involved government and state leaders at the highest levels, with even the king of Sweden at one point considered as an intermediary.

The deal for an initial 30 of the projected 100 jets for the Brazilian air force inventory is worth more than $4 billion but no confirmed figures have emerged from Brasilia.

Aside from the price and relative efficiency of the competing aircraft, at issue is Brazil's insistence on extensive transfer of technology as part of its overall strategy to start manufacturing a jet fighter of its own.

That's a tough call for the bidders, as none of them find the prospect of the customer turning into an arch competitor in a lucrative area of defense industry, believed to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in future sales. Air forces worldwide are considering phasing out jet fighters bought from the 1950s onward.

Brazil has emerged as a major competitor for European and North American manufacturers of executive jets and smaller passenger aircraft, mainly the result of an extensive research and development program pursued without significant foreign help.

Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim told reporters during a visit to France the government would consider the deal next year, but "the principal necessity is technology transfer."

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