Brazil's aircraft maker Embraer confirmed on Friday, June 6, that it had sold a propeller-driven fighter plane to a unit of Blackwater Worldwide, the world's largest private defense services company, and said the war plane would not be used for operations in Iraq.
The sale of the Super Tucano, first reported last Sunday, was cleared by both the Brazilian and US governments, Fernando Ikedo, Embraer's vice-president of market intelligence for defense and government markets, told a press briefing in Paris.
"We sold a Super Tucano to (Blackwater subsidiary) EP Aviation but for use as training in the US only," he said. He added "there is no link to Iraq".
Blackwater formed in 1997 by former US Navy special forces guards US government personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is under investigation by the FBI over the killing of several Iraqi civilians in a crowded Baghdad square in September 2007.
It had been announced earlier in the week that Embraer was in preliminary negotiations to sell the US government eight 314-B1 Super Tucano light attack and training planes for use in Iraq.
The plane maker is offering Washington the Super Tucano in a tender process opened by the US government, according to an Embraer spokesman who declined to be named in keeping with company policy.
Embraer, or Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica SA, has sold 99 of the planes to the Brazilian military and 25 to neighboring Colombia's Air Force – mostly to fight drug trafficking along the countries' Amazon border, the spokesman said.
A light fighter like the Super Tucano, which the Brazilian military outfits with .50 caliber machine guns under each wing, could be used to patrol Iraq's borders with Iran and Syria, where the US military says militants and weapons are routinely smuggled.
The US has provided small planes before to the nascent Iraqi air force, which has about 1,500 personnel and 50 aircraft – mostly small propeller planes and helicopters.
Brazilian law prohibits a private company from selling arms for use in existing conflicts. If the US government decides to buy the Tucano from Embraer and requests that they be outfitted with weapons, at that point the Brazilian government would have to step in and negotiate the sale, the Embraer spokesman said.