Newly-leaked diplomatic cables provide evidence that Boeing partnered with a Brazilian company to work on a previously undisclosed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project.

The dispatch from the US embassy in Brasilia dated 15 January 2009 came during the most intense period in the competition for the F-X2 fighter contract, which involved the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

On 13 January 2009, US Ambassador Clifford Sobel met with Nelson Jobim, then Brazil's minister of defence, to discuss Boeing's position in the competition, the cable says.

The issue of technology transfer prompted Nelson to praise Boeing's work with an undisclosed Brazilian company.

Nelson said he was "excited to hear that Boeing was working with a Brazilian company on a UAV, as it might prevent Brazil having to buy UAVs from Israel, which had become politically sensitive," the cable says.

It is not clear if the Brazilian company was a reference to Embraer, the country's largest aircraft maker. On 31 January 2011, Acir Podilha, vice president of sales and marketing for Embraer Defense and Security, told reporters that the company wants to become involved in UAVs, but currently has no products in that market.

Jobim's apparent effort to avoid purchasing Israeli UAVs did not appear to work. Two years after Jobim's conversation with Sobel, the Brazilian air force ordered Hermes 450s, which are manufactured by Israel-based Elbit Systems.

Source: Flight International