Brazil delays fighter decision

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Dassault has submitted a proposal to upgrade Brazil's Mirage IIIEBRs to extend their service life beyond 2005 as selection of the F-X BR future fighter is postponed until after presidential elections on 15 November. A decision is expected by year-end.

The $20 million bid to upgrade and support the Mirages is intended to counter Israel Aircraft Industries' offer to lease Kfirs to the Brazilian air force until the F-X BR enters service. Mauricio Botelho, chairman of Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, which has teamed with Dassault to offer the Mirage 2000, doubts whether either proposal will be successful.

Brazilian defence minister Geraldo Quintão revealed on 7 September that an F-X BR decision had been postponed until after the election because of the competition's high profile. Three of the four leading presidential candidates are using the fighter programme, and Embraer's involvement, as a political issue.

The air force has not recommended a particular aircraft, Botelho says, but has evaluated the bids. Despite calls for Embraer to be involved regardless of which fighter wins, Botelho says the company is committed to Dassault.