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France

Brazil to acquire 36 French fighter jets

Video by Gulliver CRAGG

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-09-10

Brazil has announced plans for the acquisition of 36 French-built Rafale fighter jets in a contract estimated to be worth at least $4 billion during French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to the country.

In an interview with major Brazilian newspaper O Globo on Sunday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy put the sale of French fighter jets into the context of developing relations between the two nations. On his way to attend Brazil’s independence celebrations, the French president told the newspaper that "the relationship between Brazil and France is not one of supplier and client, but one of partners".

 

It was not the first time that Sarkozy showed his desire for France and Brazil to cooperate more. In December, he announced his support for Brazil’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, an elite club of which France is already a member. The previous February, Sarkozy was in Brazil to inaugurate the construction of a bridge to French Guiana. At that time, the two leaders also shared strategies on combating illegal gold mining and trafficking in their border region.

 

This time, however, Brazil is sending its strongest signal yet of being ready to accept France’s overtures. On Thursday, the Senate in Brasilia sealed a 6.1-billion-euro deal in which France will help Brazil build 50 helicopters and a nuclear-propelled submarine.

 

Brazil's military later approved the acquisition of 36 French-manufactured Rafale fighter jets. To sweeten its bid and fend off the challenge from competitors, France offered to share highly sensitive military information with Brazil. The French aviation firm Dassault said it would let Brazil access decades of technological secrets behind the Rafale. Until last month, US bidder Boeing had refused to add a technology package to its proposal.

 

However, analysts say that Brazil may not be so interested in developing ties with Paris in particular, but rather more generally with Europe and beyond. “[German Chancellor Angela] Merkel was tremendously well-received in Brazil at the beginning of this year”, Christian Girault, a Latin American geopolitics specialist at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, told FRANCE 24. “The United States is traditionally Brazil’s strongest ally. But now [Brazil] is looking to diversify its partners… because the economic crisis has dented the prestige of the United States.”

 

“Brazil wants the latest technology, and wants more than anything to be able to build [the fighters] themselves,” says FRANCE 24’s Brazil correspondent Marc Burleigh. “Brazil sees itself as a rival to the US politically, economically, and now militarily.”


France was also eager to sell its jewel fighter jet for financial reasons. The country had invested nearly 40 billion euros in the plane’s development, but as yet has not exported a single unit. Hundreds of Rafales are already in service in the French military.

 

Dassault executives were not the only ones hoping to reap the benefits of Sarkozy's trip. The French president was accompanied by representatives of a number of other leading French companies, including GDF Suez and Alstom. Both of these firms are key players in the energy industry, a segment on which Brazil is hoping to build its clout as a 21st century global heavyweight. Alstom, which also manufactures high-speed trains, is in the race for a contract to help build a high-speed rail link between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

 

Talk of economic and military cooperation is set against a backdrop of celebrations for the anniversary of Brazil's independence. As this year's guest of honour, Sarkozy attended the independence day parade in Brasilia on Monday. The French president is, in fact, returning an honour; Lula was present at France’s Bastille Day festivities back in July.

Date created : 2009-09-07

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