Brazil favored US in fighter deal: cable
Brazil leaned in July towards a US bid on a multi-billion-dollar tender for new fighter jets but wanted to gain new technology allowing it to one day make its own, a leaked cable said Sunday.
Brazil is believed to favor either France's Dassault or Sweden's Saab in a four to 10 billion dollar deal to buy 36 fighter jets in order to upgrade the rising power's military forces.
But a US diplomatic cable from July 31, 2009 describes Brazil's Air Force commander Juniti Saito as telling the US ambassador that it preferred a competing long-shot offer from the US Boeing for 36 F/A-18 Super Hornets.
"(Saito) said that there was no question from a technical point of view that the (F/A-18) was the superior aircraft," said the embassy cable, one of 250,000 acquired by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.
"'We have been flying US equipment for decades,' he said. 'We know that it is dependable and that maintenance is simple and cost-effective...'
"It is the best decision, he said, and the French can't complain as they just signed a USD 14 billion deal with Brazil (for submarines and helicopters)," the cable said.
"Saito stressed, however, that the question regarding (US) commitment to technology transfer remains 'a significant political barrier' that is extremely important to overcome."
Brazil is upgrading its military forces and struck a 12-billion-dollar deal in 2008 to buy five French-made submarines, one of which it will convert to run on nuclear energy, as well as 50 French transport helicopters.
In June of this year Brazil penned a deal with Italy to manufacture 2,044 armored troop vehicles in Brazil over the next two decades, and Italy and Britain are competing to supply Brazil with navy patrol ships.
Dassault, with its Rafale fighter, and Saab, with its Gripen NG aircraft, have jockeyed to offer Brazil the kind of technology transfer that could one day allow it to make and export its own jets, but Brazil has yet to make a final decision on the deal.
© 2010 AFP