Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Brazil To Decide Fighter Jet Deal After Elections

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will decide who gets Brazil's multi-billion dollar contract to build jet fighters after the October elections but before he leaves office on Jan. 1, his defense minister said Sept. 7.

The finalists now battling it out in the final stages of the tender are France's Rafale made by Dassault, Sweden's Gripen NG by Saab, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet manufactured by U.S. giant Boeing.

"After the (Oct. 3) elections, the president will study the issue. He'll make a decision this year, during this administration," Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said after presiding over an Independence Day parade, as quoted by Agencia Brasil news agency.

The deal is estimated to be worth between $4 billion and $7 billion, depending on details of armaments, maintenance and peripheral industrial involvement. Brazil could also end up buying up to 100 more fighter jets from the supplier over the long term.

Brazil has made technology transfer the main priority in the tender, so it can produce fighter aircraft itself and boost its aviation industry.

To that end, Lula has already stated his preference to purchase 36 French-made, semi-stealth Rafale jets.

Lula will call a meeting of his national defense council and announce his decision after hearing its advice.

Throughout the bidding process, however, the president has made it clear the final decision involved politics and was his alone to make.

Brazil's Air Force has stated that from a defensive point of view all three bids meet the requirements of the national defense strategy that was approved last year.

Lula's candidate to succeed him in October, Dilma Rousseff, has taken a commanding lead over her nearest challenger Jose Serra, Sao Paulo's former governor.

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