Brazil's Attorney General's office has appointed an investigator to look into the air force's planned upgrade of the avionics in its Northrop F-5E/F fighters for alleged tendering and programme irregularities.

The probe is intended to determine whether there is sufficient cause to launch a wider investigation by the Justice Department. The move follows articles in Flight International and the Brazilian media raising questions about alleged bidding irregularities (Flight International, 25-31 August).

A decision is expected in mid-November on whether to launch an official investigation. Meanwhile, the Attorney General's office has asked the contenders to submit information on their bids. This has effectively frozen the F-5BR programme temporarily.

It is understood the probe will look at the relationship between Embraer and Elbit, which had a prior technical co-operation agreement to fit a similar avionics suite to the ALX armed turboprop. In spite of this possible conflict of interests, Embraer was contracted by the government to participate in the selection of a foreign systems integrator.

Industry sources have further alleged that winning integration bidder Elbit was a day late in making its final tender submission last year. Competing companies Marconi Electronic Systems and Sagem submitted their bids on time. The F-5BR programme office has denied any irregularity.

Questions have also been raised about subsequent changes to the air force's original requirements. It specified a 400W radar, retention of both nose-mounted cannons and provision for a beyond visual range missile. The air force subsequently selected the 200W Elta EL/M 2032 in an effort to overcome cooling problems.

The radar selection has since been re-opened, with the air force and Elbit again looking at the Fiar Grifo F. This multi-mode radar has already been integrated with the F-5E/F for Singapore, but not before overcoming considerable delay and integration problems.

• Northrop Grumman has formed a supplier team to support the F-5/T-38. Commerce Overseas, Derco Aerospace, Kitco and Wyvern Technologies will supply parts and kits, joining existing licensees Bristol Aerospace, CASA and Samsung Aerospace. Some 1,600 F-5s and 800 T-38s remain in service.

Source: Flight International