France prepared to give Brazil fighter jet's hi-tech: cables

5th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

France is prepared to give Brazil vital hi-tech codes for its Rafale fighter jets if the South American nation buys them, leaked US diplomatic cables published by Le Monde newspaper on Sunday.

By selling the Rafale, which has yet to clinch a single overseas buyer, France "hopes to distance the Americans' F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Swedes' Gripen," according to Le Monde's translation of the WikiLeaks cable dated November 2009.

"The French have since the beginning guaranteed the Brazilians that they would deliver the Rafale's computer codes which are the digital heart of the plane, a gesture that other competitors have been reluctant to match," the daily said.

"When (Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) Lula complained to (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy about the 'absurd price' of the Rafales, at 80 million dollars each, the French President sent him, according to foreign ministry sources, a personal letter stressing that France was prepared to offer a 'transfer without restrictions' of technological information," it said.

The deal for 36 fighter planes is estimated to be worth between four and seven billion dollars, depending on details of armaments, maintenance and peripheral industrial involvement.

"If the Rafale sale goes through, (manufacturer) Dassault might have to ask the United States for export control licences for the parts of the plane that are built with American technology," the cable said.

In November, Dassault's head in Brazil, Jean-Marc Merialdo, told AFP that all the Rafale's technology belonged to France.

This is not the case for Saab's Gripen, or for the F-18, both of which need the US Senate's green-light, Merialdo said.

The leaked US cable cited military sources in Brasilia as saying that Brazil "wants not only to buy the Rafale but to build the plane on its own territory and eventually sell it throughout Latin America towards 2030."

France has repeatedly expressed optimism that it is about to clinch the deal, but Brazil has yet to decide on which company will update its air force.

© 2010 AFP

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