Navy considers upgrade as air force delays F-X BR again

The Brazilian navy is in talks with Embraer on the possible modernisation of its 23 McDonnell Douglas A-4KU/TA-4KU Skyhawks.

After gaining initial day- and night-time operational capability with its first fixed-wing aircraft for nearly 40 years, Brazil's naval air arm is considering extending the operational life of its ex-Kuwaiti air force Skyhawks. Preliminary discussions between Brazilian naval officials and Embraer revolve around the modernisation package now being applied to the Brazilian air force's Northrop F-5E/F fleet.

Industry sources say that, apart from prolonging the aircraft's service life, the programme is aimed at giving Brazilian navy Skyhawks the same capabilities as those envisaged for the Embraer-modernised F-5EM fighter. The Brazilian navy expects to initiate Skyhawk overhaul and modernisation in late 2005 at a preliminary cost of $120 million, if the project goes ahead.

The long-awaited decision on the Brazilian air force's F-X BR fighter requirement has, meanwhile, been delayed to mid-March. The Brazilian air force favours the Sukhoi Su-35/Su-35UB - followed by the Saab/BAE Systems Gripen - but political pressure has led to the backing of the Embraer/Dassault Aviation Mirage 2000BR, which is widely tipped to win. The Brazilian air force is believed to be reluctant to accept the Mirage 2000BR because it does not believe the aircraft meets its operational requirements.

Source: Flight International