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Brazil fighter deal seen to favor Boeing

Dec. 12, 2012 at 6:12 AM   |   Comments

SAO PAULO, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Brazil's long-delayed FX-2 fighter competition isn't over yet but Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet is winning friends in the Brazilian air force, news reports said.

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a twin-engine, carrier-based, multi-role fighter aircraft based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet.

Boeing has been building partnerships in Brazil along Hornet's complex and sophisticated supply chain, which are also part of the U.S. company's wider strategy to expand customer base in the region, irrespective of whether it wins the fighter deal.

Boeing's Super Hornet is in competition with French Dassault Aviation's Rafale and Swedish company Saab's Gripen multirole fighters.

Brazil has indicated its air force will need at least 36 jets to replace Mirage and other aircraft. The deal's total value is far from clear and figures discussed by government officials and defense industry media range $4.3 billion-$8.2 billion, depending on Brazil's final choice.

Speculation on Boeing gaining ground on its European rivals centers on the Super Hornet's advanced and widely tested combat capabilities.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is likely to reveal her preference this month or early in 2013. Once her decision is known, the procurement process will transfer to Brazilian congress, defense ministry and air force officials.

Boeing backers say the Super Hornet has combat experience and is far cheaper to run than the French Rafale. France deployed Rafale in NATO operations in Libya in 2011 as part of an effort to make the jet's performance better known to procurement agencies worldwide.

Dassault has struggled to market Rafale and is following up progress on an Indian purchase with marketing campaigns in the Middle East and East Asia.

Brazil's Istoe news magazine published a document purporting to have originated in the Brazilian government commission evaluating the three fighter jets.

The reported document stated Brazilian senior officials said in their assessment the Boeing F/A-18 is best suited to the country's air force and cited several of its advantages in terms of price and benefits.

The least costly of the three jets in the FX-2 competition is the Gripen, which reportedly offered Brazil all 36 units for $4.3 billion.

Critics of the Swedish jet say they see the Gripen as an aircraft still in development.

A Rafale purchase is likely to be the most expensive of the three and could cost Brazil $8.2 billion, while the Boeing is reported to have offered its F-18s at $5.4 billion, the reports said.

Neither the figures nor the details of the assessment have been discussed by Brazilian officials, who have said they want fuel efficiency and maximum access to technology applied by the manufacturer.

U.S. President Barack Obama pushed for Boeing when he visited Brazil last year.

Four Brazilian companies have become potential global supply chain members for Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is being offered to the country.

GE Aviation, Boeing's partner in the Super Hornet program, said Memorandums of Understanding were signed with Grauna Aerospace S.A., Increase Aviation Service Ltda., TAP Maintenance and Engineering and AKAER.

The documents, which outline the potential for GE Aviation to develop programs with the firms, include provisions for the transfer of technology. Other provisions cover training in engine assembly and maintenance, engine inspection and engine testing.

Boeing has actively entered a market dominated by Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, which seeks to unseat U.S. and other aircraft manufacturers with its own competitively priced executive jets, light attack aircraft and a planned tactical transport plane to capture the C-130 Hercules market.

The rival bidders have spent huge sums on marketing pitches in Brazil. Promotion costs are said to be running into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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