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Embraer confident of winning USAF light air support deal

Embraer is confident that its A-29 Super Tucano will win the US Air Force light air support contest, even though an earlier selection of the type was overturned in January.

A decision is expected in January 2013 and Luiz Carlos Aguiar, chief executive of Embraer's Defense and Security division, says that the Brazilian airframer's offer remains compliant with US laws. He is confident about its prospects in the competition, pointing out that Embraer has invested significantly in the USA through its business jet production line in Melbourne, Florida, and its first engineering centre outside Brazil.

"We know that internal politics could have an impact, but we are compliant with the laws," he says. "We are going to generate a lot of jobs in the USA. We have been present in the USA for a long time and are investing even more into the country."

The new tender, issued in May, has already pushed back the potential delivery dates to around 2014, two years later than expected. The aircraft are destined for Afghanistan's nascent air force.

Aguiar says that apart from Indonesia, which has ordered 16 Super Tucanos - receiving the first four in a ceremony on 6 August - other Asia-Pacific countries such as the Philippines and Thailand are also potential customers for the type.

Regarding the in-development KC-390 cargo aircraft, he says that the joint definition phase is expected to be completed by early next year. After that, Embraer expects to fix the price of the aircraft and sign firm contracts in the first quarter of 2013.

The company will not add any more developmental partners other than Argentina, the Czech Republic and Portugal. However, it is open to establishing an assembly line for the KC-390 cargo aircraft outside Brazil if it makes sense for a big customer, although Aguiar stresses that any such decision is still a long way off.

"We need to study this step by step, case by case," he says. "As a defence company, we must have an open mind to these things. It may be more complicated to just get a company from another country to become a supplier, and so we may need to offer final assembly."

Embraer briefed officials from Indonesia, which operates a fleet of older Lockheed Martin C-130s, on the programme. It is also keen to sign up other potential export customers, but Aguiar says that the priority is to complete the joint definition phase and fix a price. Negotiations with existing customers and marketing for future ones can then begin in earnest, he adds.

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