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Brazil expands role in African arms market

April 2, 2012 at 6:23 PM   |   Comments

SAO PAULO, April 2 (UPI) -- Brazilian manufacturer Embraer is having more success in Africa than in the United States with its winning light aircraft Super Tucano, which is challenging rivals' market share in the category.

Embraer's only deal for the turboprop in the United States collapsed last month after the U.S. Air Force unexpectedly canceled an order for 20 planes to support operations in Afghanistan.

It also dashed hopes of a resulting manufacturing plant creating U.S. jobs in an Embraer partnership with independent defense manufacturer Sierra Nevada Corp.

The cancellation created a diplomatic furor that cast a shadow on Boeing's bid to win a multibillion fighter jet contract in Brazil.

While the Air Force Super Tucano goes through the motions of diplomacy and commercial rivalry, amid U.S. official assurances the aircraft may still win the deal, Embraer is using its substantial marketing resources and financial incentives to secure customers elsewhere.

The EMB 314 Super Tucano, also known as ALX or A-29, is a machine made for financially strapped armed forces, defense analysts said, citing its competitive upfront outlay and running costs.

A turboprop aircraft designed for light attack, counterinsurgency, close air support and aerial reconnaissance missions in low threat environments, the Super Tucano is also good at providing pilot training.

Embraer's success so far lies in the plane's low cost of $9 million-14 million apiece and operational costs of $430-$500 an hour -- factors that drew the Air Force to the aircraft before the deal got snarled up in controversy with rival U.S. manufacturers.

Embraer said it booked $180 million in orders for the Super Tucano to be deployed in counterinsurgency and border missions in Angola, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

The aircraft is used by the Brazilian air force in similar roles in the Amazonian border region, where Brazil faces drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Burkina Faso already has received three aircraft for border patrol missions, Embraer said. Another six will be supplied to Angola's air force, three of them this year.

Details of the Mauritanian order, due for delivery next year, weren't immediately available. It was also not clear if the three African countries paid the same price. With the total number of aircraft unknown, defense analysts said they remained unclear about the price paid by each of the countries for their aircraft.

The Super Tucano was a star exhibit at the just ended FIDAE defense and air show in Santiago, Chile.

Embraer Defense and Security President Luiz Carlos Aguiar said, "The Super Tucano is highly efficient and presents low operating costs.

"Its capability for surveillance and counter-insurgency missions makes it ideal for service on the continent of Africa."

Brazilian government support has helped Embraer score successes in markets that would be inaccessible to U.S. rivals because of congressional constraints and administration policies on qualifying recipient countries for U.S.-made military equipment.

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