Chile's deferred fighter modernisation programme is showing signs of revival, with Santiago asking competing US and European manufacturers to submit updated price and availability data.

According to defence sources, Chile has requested British Aerospace, Saab, Dassault and the US Government to forward new information by 17 May. The move is intended to revalidate detailed sales proposals submitted last year, but which have since expired.

Chile was close to making a final decision on its Fighter 2000 requirement when Asia's economic crisis hit Latin America. The air force's procurement budget is directly linked to the nation's export of copper, from which the force derives $70 million a year. Falling copper prices forced it to defer the programme.

The air force faces a narrow window of opportunity in which to finalise a deal. No decision is expected until after the appointment of a new air force commander in July, but it must be made before the inauguration of a new president in March next year, beyond which further political delay is likely.

After a final selection, the Boeing F-18C/D, Dassault Mirage 2000-5, Lockheed Martin Block 50 F-16C/D and the export version of the Saab BAe JAS39 Gripen remain in the running.

Prospects for the latter have not been helped by the UK's continued detention of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, acknowledges a Swedish official.

Chile has been reported as requiring 24 fighters, but sources describe that as a nominal figure. The air force has specified a band of numbers and available funds and has asked manufacturers to structure their bids accordingly. Given Chile's economic difficulties, the final number procured could now be as few as 12 aircraft.

Brazil's larger planned F-X fighter procurement remains in flux because of its currency crisis. A request for proposals is not expected before next year. Its original request for information identified a requirement for between 72 and 149 fighters initially to replace the air force's Dassault Mirage IIIs from around 2004 and Northrop F-5E/Fs between 2010 and 2015. Planned numbers have since shrunk to as few as 24 initially.

Source: Flight International