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UK support bolsters Sweden's Gripen offer to Brazil

Brazil is expected to make an announcement about its initial 36-aircraft FX-2 fighter deal around late November, following an evaluation involving the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen NG.

Industry sources say a platform selection should be confirmed by Brazil's National Defence Council - chaired by president Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva - following the delivery of a 26,000-page report compiled by the nation's air force and overseen by service chief Lt Brig Juniti Saito.

With a decision close at hand, Saab has mounted a final push to promote its Gripen NG, which it claims is the preferred candidate of both the Brazilian air force and Embraer, which will partner the selected company for local production of the chosen aircraft.

 Katsuhiko Tokunaga/Gripen International
© Katsuhiko Tokunaga/Saab

The Swedish company's efforts have also gained late support from the UK government, which has thrown its weight firmly behind the Gripen following the selection of Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems' Vixen 1000E/ES05 Raven active electronically scanned array radar for the NG model.

The UK Trade & Investment body says British content in the Gripen NG currently stands at 20% by value, primarily thanks to the radar selection, and that the possible integration of additional equipment could increase this to around 25%.

The outcome of the FX-2 contest appeared to have already been determined on 7 September, when da Silva and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy held a joint press conference in which the Rafale was named as the preferred candidate.

However, the Brazilian defence ministry swiftly distanced itself from the claim, and invited a second round of best and final offers from all three bidding companies.

One industry source says Saab is fearful that political motives could see the Rafale win in Brazil, with a selection to further strengthen the nation's strategic relationship with France.

Da Silva's government has already inked deals worth around $12 billion to acquire French-supplied equipment including Eurocopter EC725 helicopters and submarines.

Saab is promoting the Gripen NG's promised lower acquisition and operating costs over its twin-engine rivals, and has made significant pledges on industrial and technical partnership deals.

"Our sole intention is to share our technology," says a company official, who adds: "we can make a material difference to their industry."

Sweden's final offer includes an offset package worth 175% of the FX-2 contract's value, with this to include joint development activities on the Gripen NG. Saab's intention is to enable first production examples to roll off production lines in Brazil and Sweden simultaneously during 2014.

Its offer would also allow Embraer to lead future export campaigns in Latin America. Saab has already identified potential sales opportunities with Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru.

 
© Embraer
Sweden will evaluate the KC-390 transport if Brazil picks the Gripen

Additional benefit to Brazilian industry could come via a Saab proposal to pitch Embraer's EMB-314 Super Tucano turboprop trainer and developmental KC-390 tanker/transport to the Swedish air force. Stockholm needs to acquire replacements for its aged Saab 105s and Lockheed Martin C-130s within around the next decade, it notes.

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