A top Brazilian air force officer has publicly vented frustration over the four-year delay by the nation's government to sign a contract for 36 new fighter aircraft, and implicated the country's industrial base for prolonging the wait.

The farewell address on 4 April by Maj Gen Carlos de Almeida Baptista - the former commander of the office that sets the requirements for combat aircraft - offers a rare window inside the feelings of the air force leadership over the ongoing F-X2 programme.

The event, on the eve of the Latin American Aerospace and Defence show in Rio de Janeiro, was attended by Brazilian air force commander Lt Gen Saito Juniti, according to the Defesanet web site, which also published a full transcript of Baptista's speech.

In his remarks, Baptista was careful not to directly blame Brazilian industry, and expressed his pride in the overall results of the partnership between the country's defence industry and its air force.

But Baptista also said that concerns about technology transfer opportunities have taken a "prominent position" in the F-X2 selection process, and have "contributed greatly" to the delay in the contract signing.

Baptista called for resetting the selection process with a priority on addressing a lack of operational capacity, which he says was the true motivation for launching the programme in the first place.

The original roots of the F-X2 acquisition programme can be traced back to the late-1990s. The F-X programme was cancelled nearly 10 years ago, but was revived as F-X2 in 2006. The air force selected three finalists - the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale (French air force example pictured below) and Saab Gripen - in 2008, and was expected to sign a contract in 2009.

 Rafale - USAF

US Air Force

The acquisition process became complicated, however, after then-President Ignacio Lula da Silva announced striking a deal to order Rafales during a state visit by Nicolas Sarkozy, the then president of France. That led to a stand-off between the president's office and the defence ministry until da Silva left office in late-2010.

Da Silva's successor, Dilma Rousseff, revived the project almost immediately and indicated a contract signing would occur in 2011. At that point, Brazil's economy began to suffer the effects of a worldwide depression and Rousseff became focused on other priorities.

During a state visit in Paris last December, Rousseff said the F-X2 selection "may take some time" and linked the fighter acquisition process to the progress of the Brazilian economy.

Source: Flight International