Quarta-feira, 8 de Setembro de 2010

The Brazilian FX-2 novel goes on

By Pedro Seabra

 

Just when one of the most coveted and high-profile military purchases of all times in South America appeared to fall under the radar – leaving many to wonder whether it would ever see the light of day – it suddenly bounced back into public light, thanks to a timely official declaration. Such was the case when Brazil’s Defense Minister Nelson Jobim announced that a final decision on the long awaited FX-2 fighter program would only be issued by President Lula da Silva after the October 3rd elections. But truth be told, the supposedly ‘pending outcome’ has been publicly known for quite a while now.

When the process was reignited back in 2008, three finalists were selected: Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet, Saab's JAS-39 Gripen NG and Dassault’s Rafale. Nevertheless, is was clear from the start that the French offer was always considered the frontrunner, given the public political preference, especially after other significant military purchases already formalized a strategic partnership between Brazil and France on matters of defense. In September 2009, both President Lula and President Sarkozy went as far as to announce the beginning of direct negotiations to acquire 36 Rafale, until someone later reminded them that the Brazilian Air Force was still required to conduct their own technical assessment.

Curiously enough, reports surfaced that the military preferred the Swedish option – which favors more transference of technology – over the French product, considered more costly: but these concerns were quickly shoved aside. Ultimately, it was perfectly clear that it would come down to a political and strategic decision, rather than a technical or exclusively military one.

Even so, despite strong French lobbying to close the sale, Lula has consistently endured every pressure and has postponed his decision endless times during the past year, under the pretext of the upcoming elections. Legitimate as that option may be, it will not overshadow the inevitable, although it may leave some officials in the Elysée on the edge of their seats for the coming months.

 

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