Because Boeing has few export prospects for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the company is making a strong pitch for the Brazilian market, says analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group. Boeing's new alliance with AEL, whose products feature heavily in Brazil's flagship Embraer KC-390 transport/tanker programme, is no coincidence.
"It could play a significant role," in securing a Super Hornet victory, Aboulafia says.
Boeing has selected Elbit to provide a large area display to replace multiple smaller screens for the Super Hornet and the privately developed F-15SE Silent Eagle. Elbit, in turn, has committed to investing in the development of advanced cockpit avionics at AEL.
This arrangement should help fulfil some of the technology transfer that Brazil wants as part of any fighter deal.
"Boeing and its Tier 1 supplier partners are committed to bringing key technologies to Brazil," says Boeing military aircraft chief Chris Chadwick. "Through the projects identified for AEL Sistemas, Boeing and Elbit support Brazil's objective of developing the aerospace capabilities of local industry."
Under a memorandum of understanding signed between Boeing and Elbit on 5 March, AEL will participate in the development, production and support for portions of the large area display. The effort will also pave the way to establish an "advanced cockpit technology centre of excellence" in Brazil. That would allow AEL to expand its avionics offerings to other fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, according to Boeing.
Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is pitted against Saab's Gripen E/F and Dassault's Rafale in a competition that some believe the airframer must win if it harbours any hope of securing additional foreign customers for the US Navy's current strike fighter.
While the French-built Rafale was once seen as a favourite under the previous Brazilian government, the current administration of President Dilma Rousseff seems to be committed to an open competition.
"She's made it pretty clear this is going to be an open contest," Aboulafia says.