Brazil's planned Northrop F-5E/F Tiger upgrade programme faces further delay, as a weaker local currency and mounting pressure on selected suppliers to cut costs prolongs protracted contractual negotiations.

Elbit was selected as the integrator for the F-5 avionics upgrade last October, but because of the devaluation in the Brazilian real against the dollar, the Israeli company has been unable to finalise a deal. With major subsystems still to be selected, talks could extend into early next year.

Sources close to the negotiations express frustration with the pace of discussions and the difficulty of reducing costs to offset a stronger dollar. Brazil is keeping up the pressure on Elbit by maintaining a dialogue with its chief rival, GEC-Marconi, which claims its original pricing remains valid.

Selection of a new multimode radar for the F-5 is not expected for another three to four months. The choice is between the Alenia Grifo F and Elta 2032 system, while GEC-Marconi partner Lockheed Martin is continuing to push the APG-67. Other outstanding decisions include those for a radar warning receiver and inertial navigation and Tacan systems.

As well as being systems integrator, the Israeli company would supply the F-5's other avionics systems, including cockpit displays and mission computer, similar to those fitted to the armed Embraer ALX turboprop and planned improved AMX jet strike aircraft. Singapore Aerospace will be involved, while Embraer will act as prime contractor.

Brazil's navy is also struggling to fund a $4.5 million logistical and training support contract for its newly acquired ex-Kuwaiti McDonnell Douglas A-4KU/TA-4KUs. The 23 jets have remained grounded at the Sao Pedro De Aldia naval air station since delivery by ship last November.

The A-4s have been stored in Kuwait since 1994, but are reported to be in good condition. The navy plans to restore 12 to flying condition, including all three two-seat TA-4s, to operate from its aircraft carrier, the Minas Gerais. Three will be kept in reserve and the rest cannibalised for spares.

Brazil wants the first three A-4s to be flying within nine months of a contract award. Industry has been given a 20 April deadline to submit proposals, but this could again be extended. Potential bidders comprise Israel Aircraft Industries, Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina, Safe Air, teamed with Derco, and Singapore Aerospace.

Source: Flight International