Defence and corporate aviation initiatives are spearheading moves towards increased co-operation between Embraer and its new European partners Dassault, Thomson-CSF, EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space) and Snecma.

The first such venture will be a joint Embraer/Dassault bid for the Brazilian air force's fighter replacement programme, which, if successful, will help build the Brazilian manufacturer's weak defence revenues. Cooperation with the French company will be extended to corporate aircraft, Embraer having recently launched a business version of its ERJ-135 regional jet.

Embraer partnered with the European companies last year, when a French consortium bought a 20% stake - Dassault, Thomson-CSF and Aerospatiale-Matra each taking 5.67% and Snecma 3%. Embraer president Mauricio Botelho says relations with the four are "developing in quite good shape".

Bidding on the Brazilian fighter requirement is likely to be initiated "in the near future", Botelho adds, with Dassault and Embraer set to offer an advanced version of Dassault's Mirage 2000-5 Mk2 to replace Dassault Mirage IIIEBRs and Northrop F-5E/Fs. The bid will also include Snecma, supplier of the fighter's M53 engine.

Botelho is confident of winning the contract, which could result in Mirage production under licence in Brazil. He adds that rival aircraft - the Lockheed Martin F-16, Boeing F/A-18, Saab/BAE Systems Gripen and Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker - all have disadvantages, including the Russian company's ability to deliver and US technology transfer constraints hitting the F-16, F/A-18 and Gripen, with the latter's engine based on a General Electric powerplant.

With just 6% of Embraer's revenues having come from defence activities in the first half, Botelho says a key goal of the Dassault partnership will be to "build up a strong defence operation".

Cooperation with Dassault in the corporate aircraft market is under way after the launch of the ERJ-135-derived 'Legacy' at this year's Farnborough air show. "Every business has its tricks and we must learn them," Botelho says of the corporate jet market, while Orlando Neto, director of market intelligence, adds that Dassault is assisting in areas such as engineering and marketing information.

Of the other European investors, Embraer has worked with Thomson-CSF on EMB-145SA airborne early warning aircraft bought by Greece. Discussions with EADS are "moving, but at a slower pace", says Botelho. The European company has expressed an interest in marketing turboprops produced by ATR, in which it has a major stake, alongside Embraer's regional jets, with Neto adding that there is "a lot of exchange of information going on".

Source: Flight International