Brazil emerging as a serious rival in air transport market

Nov. 21, 2011 at 5:33 PM
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Brazil's aircraft manufacturing industry is emerging as a serious contender in the highly competitive air transport market where it's pitted against major players from North America, Europe and Asia.

Many years of impasse in Latin American defense relations with Western countries, particularly the United States, have rendered most of the military inventories in the region out of date or obsolete.

With the increasing difficulties in securing U.S. administration and congressional approval for arms deals, the former recipients of U.S. hardware are being wooed by Brazil's Embraer as well as other foreign suppliers.

Brazil has also strengthened its market position by offering soft terms and playing the neighborly card.

Brazilian manufacturer Embraer's EMB-314/AT-27 Super Tucano continues to be an aircraft of choice for Latin American air forces that previously were equipped with U.S. equipment.

The aircraft has a modern concept combining trainer, surveillance and counterinsurgency operations and is slowly replacing the U.S.-made Vietnam veteran OA-37 Dragonfly in the region. The Dragonfly was introduced during the Vietnam War and remained in peacetime service afterward.

Brazil is selling increasing numbers of the EMB-314 Super Tucanos to replace the OA-37 Dragonfly but is also gearing up to replace American C-130 Hercules aircraft with Embraer's KC-390.

Even with longer-term replacements afoot, however, the mathematics of force numbers and budget numbers continue to make upgrades, life extension programs and second-hand transfers attractive. Recent announcements of C-130 projects in Argentina and Peru show that dynamic in action, Defense Industry Daily said on its Web site.

American aircraft still play a prominent role in Latin American air forces but that is changing. With military budgets still said to be tight, many air forces are flying aging legacies of past purchases. They must be replaced at some point and Brazil's industry is making steady inroads on that basis, Defense Industry Daily said.

The military establishments that are still flying the Dragonfly are finding that the plane is less cost-effective to modernize and parts are hard to get by.

In contrast, the Brazilian-made Super Tucano trainers can operate from rough airport facilities. The aircraft is equipped with a pair of 12.7mm machine guns in the wings, the ability to mount surveillance and targeting pods, fire air-to-air missiles and use precision ground attack weapons.

Embraer has sold at least 99 within the country, 25 to Colombia, 23 to Chile, eight to the Dominican Republic and at least 24 to Ecuador.

Sales to Bolivia and Venezuela were blocked after U.S. objections.

The countries that are least likely to become Brazilian customers at present are hoping the Brazilian aviation industry will soon develop aircraft that doesn't require U.S. parts, or they'll find substitute aircraft on offer from China, Russia and other suppliers vying to capture a bigger slice of the Latin American market.

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