F-X BR / FX-2 - 2001-2004
The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) initiated an international bidding process on August 1st 2001, for the F-X BR Project, intended to provide Brazil with new fighter jets. The project had an estimated budget of US$700 million and foresees the acquisition of 12 to 24 aircrafts, which should be used for the next 30 years. The bidding process had three phases. The first will happen in October, when the companies will submit their technical and commercial proposals. The second occurs in December, when the company with the best price and project will be selected. In the last phase, in June 2002, a commercial contract will be signed with the winning company.
Brazil's F-X BR Project called for an initial purchase of 12 to 16 fighters, budgeted at $788 million, with a follow-on batch bringing the total value to $1 billion. The companies participating of the bid are the following: Embraer of Brazil; Alenia Aerospazio of Italy; the Boeing and Lockheed Martin corporations of the United States; RAC-Mig and Rosoboronexport of Russia and the SAAB BAE Systems consortium of Sweden.
France's Mirage 2000-5BR and Russia's Sukhoi Su-35 led the race, sources said, mainly because of their promise of total technology transfer and local manufacture. Ties were established between Embraer and a French industry consortium that has been heavily promoting the Mirage 2000-5BR. Conversely, technology transfer and sophisticated weapons appear to be dirty words for Washington, which will not freely supply beyond-visual-range missiles for the F-16s it is offering. Also competing are the Saab/BAE Systems Gripen and the MiG-29.
At one point the Boeing F-18 was also in the running for the contract, but in September 2001 Boeing removed itself from the competition by announcing that it could not produce the number of aircraft Brazil wanted for the amount it was willing to pay.
On 03 April 2002 Embraer and French aerospace industries Dassault Aviation, Snecma Moteurs and Thales Airborne Systems, signed the formalization of an agreement as to join efforts and resources in the strategic, technical, industrial, logistic and commercial fields, established under the legal form of a consortium, entitled "Mirage 2000 BR Consortium".
Aiming at fully satisfying the requirements from the Brazilian Air Force, the companies which integrate the Consortium have studied and proposed the most appropriate changes to be implemented on the Dassault Aviation Mirage 2000-5 Mk 2, thus developing a new version of this aircraft, named "Mirage 2000 BR". The Mirage 2000 BR will become the newest member of the Mirage 2000 family, featuring in particular an unrivalled lethality in Air Defense operations, real multi target and multi-shoot with RDY2 radar, together with unrestricted Beyond Visual Range missiles.
The coordination of activities of the "Mirage 2000 BR Consortium" partner companies, in all domains, shall be incumbent upon Embraer, which will exercise the role of Consortium leader. According to the scope of the Consortium, the partners will be promoting and offering the Mirage 2000 BR in Latin America, under Embraer's leadership, as well as jointly considering any and all opportunities that should arise worldwide. Analysis, development and testing activities for the Mirage 2000 BR will be jointly performed, either at Embraer's facilities in Brazil, or in France. A final assembly line for the model is being implemented in Brazil, at Embraer's new plant of Gavião Peixoto.
Under the agreed terms for the said Consortium, and thanks to the inexistence of restrictions to technology transfers from the French government, Brazil will be provided with full autonomy for development, production as well as further improvements of the Mirage 2000 BR. This national autonomy will be assured, among other aspects - by the transfer of the engineering software laboratories - including full access to the Mirage 2000 BR weapon system's source codes - what will allow Embraer, upon request from the Brazilian government, to modify the aircraft systems, thereby assuring its full adaptability to additional weapon systems and equipment, eventually required during the whole life cycle of the aircraft. Under the technical standpoint, this autonomy for further developments has been made possible - among other factors - by the Mirage 2000 BR's modular computer architecture
The Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2, from which the Mirage 2000 BR is derived, is an advanced, single-engine multirole combat aircraft of the ten ton class. About 600 Mirage 2000 have been ordered by eight air forces, three of them having placed a second order, and one a third order. The Mirage 2000 has logged over 700,000 flying hours.
Companies competing to supply fighters to Brazil made their final offers on 20 May 2002, while the decision should be made by the National Defense Council in the first half of June, according to air force commander Lt. Gen. Carlos de Almeida Baptista.
The president of the trust KnAAPO manufacturer, Komsomolsk, Andrey Beliyaninov, and the president of the Aerospace Avibrás, have agreed that the aircraft could be manufactured an industrial complex in the Valley of the Paraíba.
Swedish representatives and English of the Gripen International have been pushing for the Jas-39 Gripen to be produced by SAAB, of Sweeden, and BAE Systems, of England. It is the smaller and more advanced fighter in the competition, but has a limited range. Gripen believes the air force recommendation in 2002 favored the Gripen, and it is prepared to share the work with Embraer, if an order for more than 12 aircraft materializes.
Sukhoi proposed to supply the fighters with spare parts, which was sore point in its prior offer. Additionally, the Russians are offerring to help the Brazilian Space Program. Sukhoi is the preferred aircraft of the pilots.
These offers came about as a result of percieved gains by the French Mirage 2000, which looked as if it would win the contract. There is already a strong relationship between the French supplier and BAF so it is very possible that the Mirage will win the contract.
In late June 2002, the commander of the Air Force, Brigadier General Carlos de Almeida Baptista, was to deliver a report to the government that would announce the winner. Brazilian defence minister Geraldo Quintao revealed on 7 September 2002 that an F-X BR decision had been postponed until after the 15 November 2002 election because of the competition's high profile. A decision was expected by year-end.
Brazil's new government immediately postponed the decision for a year. The program was slated to restart before the end of 2003, with all competitors were to be given a chance to update their proposals before a winner was announced in 2004. While the original RFP called for 108 aircraft, Brazil was negotiating for a first batch of just 12, worth about $700 million, for delivery in 2007. By mid-2004 the long-running F-X competition process had progressed from the Air Force through the MOD to the Presidency where a decision on the selection of the F-X had not yet been made. The Ministry of Defense remained closely engaged with the Presidency, and its technical imput on the fighter options was being weighed carefully.
By September 2004 the Brazilian MOD had completed its technical evaluation and referred the decision to the President. Presidency Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu had told Defense Minister Jose Viegas to expect a decision "soon," and Viegas opined the decision could be announced "in a few weeks." Viegas noted that the Lockheed Martin offer for the F-16 Block 50 was regarded by some in the Brazilian Air Force as "lacking" in its offset proposals, and also there remained a question of "the weapons not following the plane" -- an apparent allusion to continuing questions in the BRAF about the availability of the AMRAAM BVR missile system.
During his 22 November 2004 visit to Brazil, Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to achieve Brazilian agreement to select from among five competitors the Sukhoi Su-35 for its next generation fighter aircraft (F-X). Brazil had decided not to take the Russian offer for purchase of 12 Sukhoi SU-35 "Super Flanker" jet fighters, even with the Russian sweetener -- purchase of 50 Embraer passenger aircraft. Based on press reports, this deal appeared to have been supported by Vice President -- now also Defense Minister -- Jose Alencar during his October visit to Russia. Instead, Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia told the press that a decision on the long-running F-X competition will not come before 2005.
The Putin visit provided Brazil as good an excuse as any to close an F-X deal with the Russians, if it so desired. Evidently, it did not. The GOB decision not to announce selection of the Sukhoi, or any other aircraft -- to kick the F-X can down the road yet again -- reinforces the belief that the Lula administration still suffered from sticker shock for the fighters (roughly $700 million for 12 aircraft.)
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