Current economic conditions could force the Brazilian Air Force to redefine and delay the FX-2 contract decision, with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter potentially re-emerging as a viable competitor, a senior Lockheed executive tells FlightGlobal.com
“I would opine that FX-2 could be put back on the shelf,” says Ron Covais, Lockheed’s president for the Americas. “And that’s how we will engage the discussions [with Brazilian military representatives] next week at LAAD.”
The Latin American Aerospace and Defense (LAAD) starts on 15 April in Rio de Janeiro.
Meanwhile, a Russian official reportedly believes the FX-2 contract has been re-opened.
“We are actively participating in the Brazilian tender, which has been reopened,” says Alexander Fomin, deputy director of the Federal Service on Military-Technical Cooperation, tells the Ria Novosti news agency.
Neither the F-35 nor a Russian fighter are among the three FX-2 finalists selected by the FAB in September, which are the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen.
In fact, the FAB previously rejected Lockheed’s bid based on the F-16, as well as proposals by the Eurofighter Typhoon and Sukhoi Su-35.
However, Lockheed’s delegation traveling to attend LAAD believes economic factors could substantially redefine the FAB’s requirement for a multi-role fighter.
Under this scenario, the FAB would instead acquire a mid-life update for a portion of its existing fleet as an interim solution, Covais says. That would allow the air force to re-open the FX-2 competition after the global economy rebounds.
Such a delay could allow the F-35 back into the competition. In the first round of discussions for FX-2, Covais says, Brazilian officials asked for information about the F-35.
But an F-35 proposal would first have required Brazil to launch lengthy discussions with the US government to obtain clearance for export, and the FX-2 competition was already moving forward rapidly.
Covais still acknowledges that “to try to calculate where the F-35 would fit is difficult at this point”, but “we see it as great potential”.
More broadly, Lockheed plans to showcase the C-130J at the LAAD event, which attracts government weapons buyers from around the region. Lockheed sees a market for a small number of C-130J sales in the region, Covais says. At this time, the company is not pursuing F-16 sales campaigns anywhere in Latin America, he adds.