Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has denied, his Justice minister also, but the Brazilian press is not buying the presidential assurances that the government still hasn’t decided what jet fighter to buy for its Air Force.
What most people seem to believe is that Brazil has agreed on a price to buy and assemble 36 Rafale fighter jets with French manufacturer Dassault after months of negotiations and ready to announce their purchase.
President Lula settled – even though he had apparently picked his choice on September 7 of last year when president Nicholas Sarkozy visited the country – on the Rafale after Dassault reduced the total price to US$ 6.2 billion from US$ 8.2 billion, Folha de S. Paulo reported. This and other similar reports have been denied by the Lula administration.
The other two contenders in the bidding process are the Gripen NG made by Sweden’s Saab and the F-18 made by the US-based Boeing. According to the Sao Paulo newspaper in spite of the 25% alleged discount the Rafale price tag would top Boeing’s 5.7 billion and Saab’s 4.5 billion.
The decision apparently was agreed during a meeting of President Lula with Defense minister Nelson Jobim, who last weekend stopped over in Paris on his return trip from Israel.
In France, according to Reuters, Dassault declined to comment.
Brazil’s Defense ministry said it still has not concluded a report on the bidding process detailing its recommendation for the president.
Brazil, the largest Latin American country and with the strongest economy, is seeking a generous technology transfer offer and local assembly. The deal could eventually rise to more than 100 aircraft.
Brazil has signed a strategic defense agreement with France worth billions of dollars, including the local assembly of helicopters and conventional and nuclear-powered submarine.
Lula had at least on two occasions anticipated he preferred the French offer in spite of the fact the Brazilian Air Force leaked a report saying the Swedish Gripen was the best choice given its low maintenance costs.
However one of the decisive factors, according to sources quoted by the newspaper, is that both Boeing and Saab have numerous US manufactured components which could in a future prevent Brazil’s sovereign decision to sell jet fighters to third countries.
In effect the US has impeded Brazil from selling its Super Tucano training aircraft to Venezuela precisely for that reason.