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President delays purchase of 'expensive' French fighter jets

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-07

Brazilian President Lula da Silva has decided not to buy new French Rafale fighter planes before leaving office, explaining that the elevated cost of the new air force fleet would have to be considered by his successor.

AP - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said he will not make a decision on a multi-billion-dollar jet fighter purchase before stepping down on January 1, state media reported.        

Late Monday, Lula told official television station TV Brasil that it would be up to the government of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, to decide the issue.
"It's a very big debt, it's a long-term debt for Brazil. I could sign off on it and do a deal with France, but I'm not going to do that," Lula said, according to an excerpt published by the state news agency Agencia Brasil.
According to Brazilian media, the purchase of 36 new fighters to replace Brazil's aging fleet is worth between six billion and eight billion dollars -- and possibly much more if options to expand the fleet to more than 100 aircraft are exercised.
The competition is between France's Rafale jet, made by Dassault, the F/A-18 Super Hornet by US company Boeing, and a Gripen NG to be built by Saab of Sweden.
Lula last year announced that he had started negotiations with France to buy the Rafales, but quickly backtracked under pressure from the Brazilian air force and the other two bidders.
Leaks in the Brazilian press suggested the air force preferred the cheaper Gripen, prompting Lula to say he would make the final decision on political criteria -- seen to favor France, with which Brazil has a strategic pact.
But that decision has been put off several times this year.
Rousseff, Lula's former cabinet chief, on Monday had a long meeting with Defense Minister Nelson Jobim on that and other issues.
Jobim, who is tipped to stay on in his post under Rousseff, Tuesday was scheduled to have a lunch and meeting with the head of the air force and other military chiefs.
Brazil has insisted that transfer of technology be part of the jet fighter deal.
France was the first to say it would permit full transfer of technology, including software source codes considered the heart of the sophisticated fighters.
However its Rafale has never been picked up by any country outside of France before, and it is seen as an expensive machine.
Sweden and the United States have promised to provide "relevant" technology to Brazil.
The Gripen, though, is still on the drawing board with no prototype yet available.
And Brazil is wary of buying the F/A-18 because it would mean relying on US hardware despite past experiences in which US authorities blocked transfer of military technology.
Among the US diplomatic cables recently revealed by WikiLeaks was one citing the head of the Brazilian air force, Brigadier Juniti Saito, last year telling US officials he considered "there was no question from a technical point of view that the F18 was the superior aircraft."
The US embassy in Brasilia also noted that France's Rafale had "a high level of US content" -- and said the French bid could be undermined by telling Brazil that technology transfer of that jet was partially dependent on US approval.


Date created : 2010-12-07


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