Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and not Brazil’s Air Force will determine which contractor to pick for a US$ 4.4 billion order for 36 fighter jets. That’s the message from Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim for the second day in row.
His comments come after a report in Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo said that Brazil’s Air Force favors a Swedish competitor to French defense contractor Dassault’s Rafale fighter jet because the French option is “too expensive”.
The Rafale is estimated at double the cost of a Gripen fighter, Tuesday’s report in Folha de S. Paulo said. Brazil’s Air Force would not confirm the report. Sweden’s Gripen NG, made by Saab AB, and US-based Boeing F-18 Super Hornet are also in the running for the contract.
“Sometimes the engineers have one opinion but many times cheap things end up being expensive, so one has to think about this too,” Amorim told journalists in Paris before a lunch with French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser, Jean-David Levitte.
“The process is not finished and will only finish once the president makes his decision,” Amorim said.
A final decision on the order for 36 fighters had been expected last year, with the first deliveries set for 2014. It was not clear when the announcement might be forthcoming.
French Defense minister Hervé Morin also downplayed reports about the Gripen and said that the French offer includes technological transfer which “would make Brazil an industrial platform for the rest of Latin America”.
Morin also recalled that the Brazilian decision will be “political” and that the two countries have established a strategic alliance that already includes the supply of helicopters and submarines, including a nuclear powered submersible.
President Lula and his French peer Nicolas Sarkozy have an excellent relation: Sarkozy traveled to Brazil last September when both leaders issued a joint statement opening Brazil’s official negotiations to buy 36 Rafales.
While the statement did not mean an end to the tender process, Rafale is seen as the favorite to get the deal and because the French bid for technology transfer.
Meanwhile, Saab and Boeing are continuing to fiercely advertise their own jets. Boeing has reportedly lowered the price tag for its F/A-18 Super Hornet. Sweden promised that 40% of the ordered jets would be built in Brazil and that the Brazilian Air Force would get full access to the technology used in the Gripen NG.
The multi-role aircraft is equipped with a General Electric F414G engine and an active electronically scanned array radar system. Observers nevertheless see the French winning.