The Brazilian government has selected the Saab JAS 39E Gripen for its F-X2 next generation fighter requirement.
Brasilia has taken more than 12 years to decide on the new fighter, with the selection finally coming on Dec. 18. The Brazilian air force will receive 36 Gripens in the new Gripen E configuration, which has also been ordered by the Swedish air force and selected by the Swiss air force.
Brazil’s defense ministry said that the Gripen was the least costly contender and also met the country’s requirement for sufficient technology transfer to ensure that Brazil’s ability to operate the aircraft would depend as little as possible on continued support from the supplier.
The total value of the deal is estimated at $4.5 billion including initial support and spares, training, flight simulators, technology transfer and industrial cooperation. The contract is expected to be finalized by December 2014, with the first aircraft to arrive 48 months later. The contract is to be complete by 2023.
There are two known major factors behind the timing of the deal. The Brazilian air force short-listed the Dassault Rafale, Boeing Super Hornet and Gripen in 2008, received firm offers in October 2009 and submitted its analysis and recommendations in January 2010. Since then, the final decision has remained at the presidential level — Dilma Rousseff succeeding Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Lula in 2011 — and competitors have repeatedly been asked to extend their bids, a process that was reaching its practical limit.
The other factor is the aging of Brazil’s fighter inventory. The air force retired its Mirage 2000s this year and has increased flying hours on its modernized Northrop F-5EM/FM in compensation. It has also acquired 11 ex-Jordanian F-5s which are being upgraded to the EM/FM configuration. But these aircraft will be retired by 2025 and the remaining Alenia/Embraer A-1Ms will be out of service in 2023.
Major contractors on the Gripen include General Electric, with the F414 engine, and Selex-ES, which provides the Raven ES-05 radar, Skyward-G infrared search and track system, and identification friend-or-foe equipment. The panoramic cockpit displays will come from Elbit’s Brazilian subsidiary, AEL Sistemas.
The decision comes on the same day that Sweden’s defense materiel agency, FMV, signed a 16.4 billion Swedish Krona ($2.51 billion) production deal with Saab to modify 60 JAS 39 Gripen C fighters to the Gripen E standard.
Deliveries of the modified aircraft will begin in 2018. The production order is the third contract in a framework set up between the FMV and Saab to develop the Gripen E upgrade announced in February. The last Swedish aircraft will be delivered in 2026.