Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brazil May Buy Over 100 Gripen Jets: Saab’s Deal to Sell Combat Planes to Brazil Could Triple in Size

The Wall Street Journal
By Robert Wall
Updated Nov. 18, 2014 12:19 p.m. ET

LONDON— Saab AB’s deal to sell Gripen NG jets to Brazil could more than triple to eventually include the purchase of over 100 aircraft before the country has satisfied its demand for combat planes, a senior Brazilian military officer said Tuesday.

Brazil’s Air Force plans to field “at least” 108 Gripen aircraft to make it the sole combat jet in the service’s inventory, Brig. José Augusto Crepaldi Affonso, the head of programs at the Brazilian Air Force said.

Brazil’s total purchase of Gripen jets could eventually grow further. The country is evaluating whether to use a derivative of the plane for aircraft-carrier operations. The ship-based version of the aircraft, called the Sea Gripen, would still have to be developed.

Saab last month sealed a $5.4 billion deal with Brazil for an initial 36 jets after last year beating the Boeing Co. F/A-18E/F and French Rafale built by Dassault Aviation SA in fierce competition.

Saab has teamed with Embraer to develop and build the single-engine fighter aircraft. At least 15 of the first 36 jets will be assembled in Brazil.

Deliveries of the initial group of jets to the Brazilian Air Force would take place from 2019 to 2024. Follow-on deliveries could extend production past 2030, Brig. Crepaldi told DefenceIQ’s annual International Fighter conference.

The decision by Brazil and Sweden to commit to buying Gripen NG jets has made Saab one of the few western fighter-jet makers to be assured combat jet production will continue past 2020.

Boeing Co. faces the risk of its F-15 and F/A-18E/F combat jet programs coming to an end in the coming years. The Eurofighter Typhoon consortium of BAE Systems PLC, Airbus Group NV, and Finmeccancia SpA face a similar need for further export orders. The French Rafale jet, built by Dassault Aviation SA, also needs to secure overseas contracts to remain in production.

Lockheed Martin Corp. , the world’s largest defense company, has purchase commitments for its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that stretch beyond the decade, both in the U.S. and abroad. The F-35 is the world’s biggest and most expensive combat jet program.

Brazil will use the Gripen initially to replace some of its F-5BR combat jets, though they eventually will also replace A-1 jets, Brig. Crepaldi said. The country also is assessing what mix of single-seat and two-seat Gripen NGs to buy. The first batch includes eight dual-seaters.

- Source:  http://online.wsj.com

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