Congressional approval required for F-16 deal, which will include first export of AMRAAM to Latin American country

Brazil has completed negotiations with Switzerland to acquire 15 surplus Northrop F-5E/F fighters to supplement its planned fleet of 47 upgraded F-5BRs. The US Department of Defense at the same time has notified the US Congress of the possible sale of 12 Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds to Brazil, with an accompanying weapons package that includes the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM beyond visual range air-to-air missile.

The Brazilian air force is expected to sign the $120 million deal with Switzerland by the endof June. Some of the aircraft are needed to offset attrition and provide an interim capability while the existing fleet is rotated through the F-5BR upgrade programme by Embraer and Elbit.

Additional two-seaters are earmarked to replace a number of Embraer AT-26 Xavantes in the fighter weapons training role. The Xavante is expected to be phased out during 2005, which should lead to further purchases of Northrop F-5F airframes in the near future. Brazil is looking at the TF-5 two-seat conversion package offered by Tiger Century Aircraft (Flight International, 8-14 January).

The proposed F-16 sale notified to the US Congress is worth up to $909 million and includes 48 AIM-120C5 missiles, which would mark the first sale of the active-radar weapon to a Latin American nation. Washington's decision to release the missile for sale to the region follows confirmation last September by Peru that it was already in possession of the Russian Vympel RVV-AE (R77/AA-12 Adder) missiles, says the US Defense Security Co-operation Agency.

Congressional approval is still needed for the AMRAAM sale, which is seen as critical if the F-16 is to win the Brazilian F-X fighter competition. Other contenders include the Saab/BAE Systems Gripen, Dassault Mirage 2000BR and Sukhoi Su-30MK, which have been offered with the Denel R-Darter, MBDAMica and RVV-AE missiles respectively.

Release of AMRAAM would also make the missile an alternative offering for Gripen.

Source: Flight International