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Boeing ratchets up Brazil jet campaign

Aug. 17, 2011 at 8:14 AM   |   Comments

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BRASILIA, Brazil, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Boeing is ratcheting up its campaign to win a multibillion-dollar deal to supply Brazil with advanced jet fighters, beating rival bids from France's Dassault and Sweden's Saab.

The Boeing Co. is perceived in Brazil as a latecomer to the protracted competition for the contract mainly because when initiated France's Rafale fighter jet was seen as the lead contender under the former presidency of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula handed over power Jan. 1 to President Dilma Rousseff, his Workers Party colleague who was originally seen as a protege likely to follow his line.

Increasingly, however, Rousseff has asserted her authority independent of any apparent bidding from Lula and has proceeded to sweep her administration clean of the former president's allegedly corrupt cronies.

Several of Lula's former aides lost jobs in recent reshuffles in Rousseff's Cabinet and senior administration ranks. One of the casualties was Nelson Jobim, the former defense minister most closely associated with the FX-2 fighter jet tender.

A likely decision on the purchase of the jet fighters was also put off till 2012.

The postponement may work to Boeing's advantage. U.S. President Barack Obama met Rousseff in March and lobbied for support of the Boeing bid.

Early speculation that Boeing may not be as generous as France's Dassault in sharing their expertise and technologies -- a precondition for the deal to go through -- has also been dispelled by Boeing's pronouncements.

Exactly how much technology sharing Boeing, Dassault or Saab can agree to remains up for discussion. Brazil has made clear it sees the jet fighter deal as part of its plan ultimately to start developing its own advanced defense aviation industry.

Boeing is pushing for its Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, against Dassault's Rafale, which hasn't been sold outside France, and Saab's Gripen NG, which has found buyers in Europe and Asia.

All three manufacturers claim multi-role functionality of what is essentially a deadly war machine. Brazil says its territory and coastline and recently developed offshore oil fields require it to be better prepared against any potential hostile challenge.

Boeing is taking its campaign further and showcasing this week a Super Hornet simulator in Brasilia for decision-makers, legislators and the public.

The simulator demonstration in the National Congress building marks Boeing's participation in a public hearing organized by the National Defense Committee of the Brazilian Senate to discuss the Super Hornet's capabilities and how they meet Brazilian air force's requirements.

"We look forward to answering any questions that the Brazilian senators may have in regard to Boeing's Super Hornet offering in the F-X2 fighter competition," said Joe McAndrew, a Boeing vice president for business development.

"In addition to helping Brazil achieve air dominance, Boeing can be a strategic partner in several areas, including education, biofuels, satellites, unmanned systems, networking and critical infrastructure protection," he said.

The simulator includes a front and rear cockpit and demonstrates the capabilities of the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model. Its 180-degree projection screen offers virtual-reality visibility of cities, forests, roads and buildings, as well as enemy aircraft.

The system is capable of demonstrating simulated aerial combat and air-to-ground targeting, navigation, and mission systems operation. Operators also can practice landing on and taking off from runways or an aircraft carrier.

The Super Hornet strike fighter is in service with the U.S. Navy and the Australian air force.

Saab says its JAS-39 Gripen NG is "no ordinary fighter." Using the latest technology it is capable of performing an extensive range of air-to-air, air-to-surface and reconnaissance missions employing the latest weapons, Saab says.

"Gripen is designed to meet the demands of existing and future threats, while simultaneously meeting strict requirements for flight safety, reliability, training efficiency and low operating costs," the company says.

It has a Volvo Aero Corp. RM12 turbofan engine and offers "50 percent lower operating costs than its best competitor," says Saab, in an apparent reference to Boeing.

Dassault's Rafale comes with the most generous of technology transfer packages on offer but may turn out to more expensive than its rivals, the Folha de Sao Paolo reported.

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