Wikileaks: Embraer favoured Super Hornet for Brazilian fighter contract

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A newly-leaked diplomatic cable describes Embraer chief executive Frederico Fleury Curado candidly revealing the company's preferred bidder for the F-X2 contract.

The nearly two-year-old message drafted by the US consulate in Sao Paolo, Brazil, summarizes a closed-door meeting on 29 January 2009 between Curado and Clifford Sobel, who was then the US ambassador.

Four months after Brazil's air force short-listed three fighters - the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen - for the still-ongoing F-X2 competition, Curado told Sobel that a US purchase of Embraer Super Tucanos would "add value" to Boeing's bid.

"Curado then stated that Embraer privately hopes Boeing wins the contract, though publicly they remain neutral," says the cable, dated 19 February 2009 and stamped "confidential".

 
 © Australian Department of Defence
Curado also downplayed one of the Brazilian government's key goals in the F-X2 acquisition strategy, according to the cable. By making technology transfer a key part of the bidding requirements, Brazil wants to leverage F-X2 to acquire the skills for developing a fifth-generation fighter after 2025.

But Curado told Sobel that "building a jet fighter is a difficult process and that the only way to truly learn how to build a plane is to develop the aircraft from the very beginning", the cable says, quoting Curado directly saying that "it is through trial and error that a company learns how to actually build an aircraft".

Asked to comment on the cable's description of Curado's remarks, Embraer issued a statement that "our position has always been and remains neutral in this tender".

As it expects to participate in the research, development and production of the fighters, Embraer also has signed agreements with all three finalists for the long-delayed F-X2 order, the company adds.

Brazil originally planned to award the F-X2 contract in mid-2009, but the acquisition process has been mired in political disputes.

On 7 September 2009, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced that the Rafale had been selected for the F-X2 order even though the air force had not yet submitted its recommendation. After defence minister Nelson Jobim threatened to resign, da Silva agreed to back down although he reportedly still favours the Rafale.

After da Silva's successor - Dilma Rousseff - was elected on 1 November, the F-X2 contract was expected to be awarded by end-year.

Title page image © BernieC gallery on flightglobal.com/AirSpace