Brazil names three finalists for F-X2 contract, rejects three others

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Brazil's F-X2 fighter competition has eliminated three of the six bidders as the focus shifts to scrutinising the technology transfer and offset proposals for each of the finalists.

Three fighters - the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen NG - await a request for proposal expected later this month or November, with final bids due 60 days later and contract award by the end of 2009. The Brazilian air force released no details to justify its rejection of bids from the Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16BR and Sukhoi Su-35.

Brazil wants a multirole fighter that can patrol the skies as well as monitor smugglers in the Amazon and protect a proliferation of ocean-based oil rigs. But a new defence white paper released in September also shows Brasilia is counting on the F-X2 to revitalise a once strong domestic arms industry.

The government's ultimate strategy is to use F-X2 technology offsets to cultivate a domestic industry robust enough to "produce or to participate in the production of a fifth generation fighter in the medium- to long-term future", says the air force.

Brazil's technology transfer interests may boost the Rafale's prospects. The air force already flies Dassault Mirage fighters, and Dassault can boast deep industrial and political links between France and Brazil. On the same day the finalists were named, Brazil also announced that it is to partner French industry to design and build a nuclear-powered submarine.

Brazil wants to buy at least 36 new fighters, and perhaps as many as 120, to replace its ageing fleets of Northrop F-5BRs, Alenia/Embraer A-1Ms and Dassault Mirage fighters. The country allowed a previous contract competition - dubbed F-XBR - to collapse a few years ago.