Brazil’s Lula Postpones to 2010 Decision on US, French or Swedish Fighter Jets

France's Dassault Rafale Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Monday that his government should decide on the purchase of 36 fighter jets for the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) in early 2010. He was referring to the procurement process that is its final stage at FAB.

The three competing models being considered are the Rafale, from France's Dassault, the F18 Super Hornet from US Boeing and the Swedish Gripen, from Saab.

In his speech during a fraternization luncheon with military officers, the president also informed the Army is getting the first batch of 34 tanks, which are part of a 3,000 armored vehicles project to be purchased by the Brazilian Army until 2030. They should all be built in Brazil.

"We are turning our commitment to modernize and refit the three forces into a reality," Lula said during the luncheon. He also said that last week he sent Congress supplementary bill 97. That proposal strengthens the Ministry of Defense and extends to the Navy and Air Force the power to police the country's borders, an ability the Army already has.

The Guarani project being developed by the Army since 2007 to replace its combat vehicles by new models developed and manufactured in Brazil depended only on the president's approval. The plan foresees an investment of 6 billion reais (US$ 3.43 billion) over 20 years.

The armored vehicles will be built by Iveco, a Fiat subsidiary, in Sete Lagoas, Minas Gerais state, in the Brazilian Southeast.

Three months ago Lula signed an agreement with France to acquire submarines, one of them nuclear-powered. And he commented on that at the luncheon:

"It is with great pride that I follow the Navy's nuclear program and I followed the formalization, this year,  of contracts for the construction of a shipyard, a submarine base, a nuclear-powered submarine and four conventional submarines," he added.

Lula had already announced that the French Dassault was his choice of fighter jet, during the visit of President Nicolas Sarkozy to Brazil in September, saying the decision was a political one. At the time, the contract was estimated to be worth between 4.5 and 5 billion euros (US$ 6.6 billion to US$ 7.3 billion).

Last week, Brazil's Defense minister Nelson Jobim also said  that the decision to buy the fighter jets would be left for 2010. According to Jobim, who had informed that the winner would be announced later this month, the "time is scarce," to make it happen before the end of the year.

"The Air Force has not handed in the work (the technical analysis of proposals submitted by the three competitors). They might deliver it next week and I think a decision will be left for the beginning of next year." He reaffirmed that the final decision will be a political one and up to Lula.

Initially it was expected that FAB would conclude the technical analysis of proposals and would deliver the result to the Minister by the end of October.

The three competitors are being evaluated in several areas the Brazilian government considers priorities: technology transfer; Brazil's domination of the weapon system offered; arrangements for compensation and participation of the national industry, plus technical-operational and commercial features. The item domination of the weapon system would ensure that Brazil use, without any restriction, the existing or still-to-be-developed weapons.

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