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More delays in Brazil jet fighter deal

Dassault has been trying to repeat its success with the Mirage jet fighter but has faced tough competition from rival aircraft, including Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and Saab's Gripen NG fighters.
by Staff Writers
Brasilia, Brazil (UPI) May 23, 2011
More anxiety and suspense is in store for competing defense contractors from the United States and Europe who hope to secure Brazil's lucrative multibillion-dollar jet fighter deal.

The deal isn't not on offer until 2012 when President Dilma Rousseff may decide its fate -- or defer it again.

Initiated as part of grandiose military modernization plans by Rousseff's predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the jet fighter deal has involved intense lobbying at the highest level in support of the Boeing Co., France's Dassault Aviation and Sweden's Saab. All three manufacturers produce jet fighters they see as fitting Brazil's defense refurbishment requirements.

At the same time, lobbying and early negotiations for the deal have been marked by conflicting signals from Brasilia. Presidential aides said Brazil couldn't afford the jets, up to 36 and more in the long term, and wouldn't borrow to buy them.

Rousseff indicated in April that Brazil considered military modernization an urgent need, not a luxury.

"A totally developed Brazil will need equipped, trained, modern armed forces," she said. "Defense cannot be considered a lesser part of the national agenda."

This week Rousseff announced no decision on the jet fighters could be expected this year but could likely be brought on the agenda in 2012.

The jets deal came up for discussion when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Brazil in March and was pursued with intense diplomacy when French President Nicolas Sarkozy landed in Brasilia in September 2009 at the head of a large delegation. Sarkozy repeated his offer to be generous with technology transfer in return for securing Brazil's orders for Dassault's Rafale jet fighter.

Dassault has been trying to repeat its success with the Mirage jet fighter but has faced tough competition from rival aircraft, including Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and Saab's Gripen NG fighters.

The latest lobbying effort came as Rousseff met with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Rousseff is seeking maximum advantage to Brazil in any technology transfer contracts associated with the jet fighter deal.

Brazil is developing its own defense industries and its aircraft manufacturer Embraer is already an emerging rival to executive and small jet manufacturers in the United States and Europe.

Lula embarked on the jet fighter program as Brazil discovered a string of offshore hydrocarbon deposits, encouraging military leaders to ask for better equipment and greater inventories to defend the oil fields, combat drug trafficking and people smuggling and guard against trouble in its vast, porous Amazonian border region.

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