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DUBAI: Doubts raised about Brazil's lofty Gripen goal

Brazil’s economic troubles appear to be dampening the Brazilian air force's hopes of recapitalising its entire outdated fighter force, with one official saying the final number of Saab Gripen NGs may be closer to 40 than the original F-X2 programme target of 108 new fighters.

Maj Brig Waldeísio Ferreira Campos, vice-director of the air force’s air education and training command, has his doubts that the Brazilian government will be able to procure the expected total number of Gripens. “I don’t know. Maybe we will go to 40, but not 100,” he told Flightglobal at the Dubai Air Chiefs Conference on 7 November.

Campos says the Gripen NG selection was a “good deal for Brazil”, and when the programme is fully implemented the nation's industry will be producing about 70% of the aircraft. He confirms that the first aircraft are due to arrive in 2019 and that Brazilian pilots have already begun their training programme in Sweden.

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Brazilian air force

He expects to stand up an initial squadron of 12 aircraft in central Brazil near the capital, and aircraft deliveries will continue at a rate of two per year thereafter. The location of the second squadron has not been defined, he says.

The Gripen NG was chosen over the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale for its favourable terms and technology transfer, and the minimum requirement was for 36, including eight two-seat trainers. Campos says the requirement for a new fighter has been around for 20 years, and he was glad to see the deal with Saab close. However, whether the nation can afford to recapitalise its entire legacy fighter force of Embraer/Alenia AMXs and Northrop F-5s amid the downturn in defence spending and the declining value of the Brazilian real remains to be seen.

Embraer is partnered with Saab on production, plus the development of a two-seat version with export potential. Almost 50 Embraer and AEL Sistemas employees are already in Linköping, Sweden, supporting the Gripen programme.

Campos is upbeat about the nation’s fleet of Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, and the introduction of Embraer KC-390, planned for 2018. He says the transport and tanker programme is one of the most important to Brazil and is progressing “on the agenda”.

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