Brazilian air force sources have suggested that the country's long-delayed fighter procurement could be cancelled outright, despite positive statements made earlier this month by defence minister José Viegas.

The results of a technical analysis of the five designs contesting the requirement have already been handed over to Brazil's national defence council, and Viegas says the winning contender could be announced late this month. Flight International understands that the Sukhoi/Avibras Su-35 and Saab/BAE Systems Gripen were ranked at the top of the list, with commercial offsets having been a deciding factor in the assessment process.

Brazil's eight-year F-XBR programme originally called for a decision in 1998, but budgetary constraints and political factors have repeatedly delayed a platform selection. In view of the numerous postponements, some sectors in the Brazilian air force have proposed cancelling the current procurement programme and instead acquiring secondhand fighters as a stop-gap measure until the procurement of a state-of-the-art fighter such as the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon or updated variant of a currently shortlisted design.

A new design is needed, they say, to ensure compatibility with Brazil's network-centric capabilities, such as its SIVAM Amazon surveillance system. The step would also meet a government requirement to reduce defence expenditure over the next five years to cover increased wage requirements.

The Brazilian air force is believed to have discounted the lease of fighter aircraft as an interim measure, instead favouring the direct acquisition of surplus aircraft to meet its immediate needs. Among the alternatives currently being examined are the purchase of 29 ex-Royal Netherlands Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16 Mid-Life Update fighters or a similar number of Israel Aircraft Industries-owned Kfir C-10s.

Source: Flight International