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Saab Beats Boeing in Brazilian Fighter Deal


Sweden’s Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG has defeated the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the French-designed Dassault Rafale to win Brazil’s 36 aircraft F-X2 fighter competition.

“The plane chosen is the Gripen NG,” the Brazilian air force wrote on its twitter feed on Dec. 18. “Has just been announced by Defense Minister Celso Amorim.”

The U.S. government and Boeing have been trying to convince the Brazilian government for years to select the Super Hornet for the tender, which has been running in fits and starts for over a decade.

Boeing officials confirm that they are aware that Brazil has selected the single-engine Gripen, but the company has not yet received official notification from the Brazilian government that the F/A-18E/F was not selected.

“Boeing has not received official notification from Brazil regarding a decision in the F-X2 competition,” wrote company spokeswoman Mary-Ann Brett in an email to USNI News. “We await word on the next steps in the selection process and will continue to work with Brazil in meeting its defense requirements.”

Though Boeing and the U.S. government have done much to entice Brazil with offers of technology transfers and industrial benefits, the sales campaign was ultimately derailed because of the revelation that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s personal communications.

Further, revelations that the NSA was also spying on much of the Internet traffic and other tele-communications inside Brazil did not help matters. Rousseff would later angrily denounce the U.S. government at the United Nations General Assembly in October.

For Boeing, defeat in the F-X2 competition comes as a heavy blow as it struggles to keep the Super Hornet production line open past 2016.

The line is expected to shut down in late 2016 unless Boeing receives new orders for the carrier-based fighter.

“There is no immediate impact to the F/A-18 production line,” Brett wrote. “The announcement by Australia to acquire 12 EA-18G Growlers along with the additional U.S. Navy Super Hornet and Growler procurements previously announced extends the line through late 2016.”

Earlier in the month, Mike Gibbons, Boeing vice-president for F/A-18 programs, expressed his confidence that the Navy would order more Super Hornets. Further, he said that he expects additional export orders for the jet that could keep it in production past 2020.

The loss in Brazil, no doubt, impacts the Boeing’s prospects for the keeping the production line going, but the company is keeping its hopes up.

“There is much interest in additional U.S. and international orders which will further extend production and maintain the industrial base, a critical national asset,” Brett wrote.

Sales campaigns are ongoing in Denmark, Malaysia, and in a number of Middle Eastern countries, she wrote.

Additionally, the Super Hornet might have a chance of dislodging the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter if Canada holds a competition for its next-generation fighter.

Categories: News & Analysis
Dave Majumdar

About Dave Majumdar

Dave Majumdar has been covering defense since 2004. He has written for Flight International, Defense News and C4ISR Journal. Majumdar studied Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and is a student of naval history.