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Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB) Modernization

The air force desperately wants to replace its aging Mirages. Upon taking office in January 2003, President Lula postponed a decision on a new generation fighter (F-X), an understandable decision given the cost involved, approximately $700 million. New Lockheed F-16 Block 50 aircraft were previously offered in the competition. However, recognizing that other competitors might be preferred by FAB, Lockheed-Martin also decided to offer used F-16s in a deal that would provide the air force with capable aircraft at a fraction of the cost of new planes. Recent soundings from the GOB suggested that in order to avoid the significant budgetary outlay, consideration is also being given to upgrade of the current Mirage fleet. However, FAB continues to focus on the procurement of new, not used, aircraft. Regardless of the decision, GOB funding of the F-X will be difficult. In the meantime, Brazil acquired 11 Ex-Jordanian F-5E Tiger-2 aircraft [including 3 F-5F] in a deal signed in 2007, with deliveries from 2008 to 2009.

In the early 2000s, with renewed economic stability, the FAB underwent an extensive renewal of its inventory through several acquisition programs, the most ambitious of which was the acquisition of 36 new front-line interceptor aircraft to replace its aging Mirage III. Known as F-X Project the program was postponed once again in 2005 and the final decision now will be made around 2011. The former competitors were the General Dynamics F-16, the Dassault Rafale, the SAAB-BAE Gripen, and the Sukhoi Su-35. On July 15, 2005 one agreement was set with the French government for the transfer of twelve Dassault Mirage 2000s (ten "C" and two "B" versions) second-hand ex-Armée de L'Air. Known as F-2000s in Brazil, the first two aircraft arrived at Anápolis Air Base on September 4, 2006.

On November 4, 2007 the F-X Project was revived. Now known as Project FX-2 and with a bigger budget, the competitors for acquisition are now the Eurofighter Typhoon, Sukhoi Su-35, Saab Gripen, Dassault Rafale, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and, although information on Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II was requested, Lockheed Martin presented an F-16 Fighting Falcon variant (designated F-16BR).

Another recent attempt by Brazil to modernize their air force is their recent acquisition and upgrade of their P-3 Orion aircraft. The P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, upgraded at Airbus Military's facilities in Getafe (Madrid), Spain were flown on April 29th, 2009. This maiden sortie was a further milestone in the programme to modernise nine P-3 aircraft for the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB), and marked the culmination of the equipment development and installation phase, and the start of flight tests to certify the mission and avionics systems.

The refurbished P-3 aircraft is fitted with the FITS (Fully Integrated Tactical System) mission system developed by Airbus Military in Spain, which is at the heart of a sophisticated arms system which ranges from maritime patrol to the most comprehensive anti-submarine warfare configuration. The FITS system, designed as a flexible and modular system, can be fitted in any kind of platform, including Airbus made platforms such as the C-212, CN-235 and C-295, as well as more complex platforms such as the P-3 Orion and Airbus A319. The nine P-3AM aircraft will be used primarily in marine patrol missions including control of the Brazilian EEZ (exclusive economic zone), border protection, drug law enforcement in the Amazon region and search and rescue missions along an area stretching over 6 million square kilometres entrusted by the OACI to the Brazilian government (virtually the entire South Atlantic).

EADS-CASA of Spain was awarded a contract in November 2002 to upgrade nine P-3 Orions to P-3AM (modernised) standard (also known as P-3BR) for the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) out of a fleet of twelve ex-US Navy Lockheed Martin P-3A Orions under a USD423 million programme. The P-3s were originally scheduled to be delivered straight to Spain for the upgrade from 2003, with the three remaining examples being delivered to Brazil for spares use. However, final contract negotiations were only completed in early 2004 over final specifications for the upgrade. Final contract signature occured on 29 April 2005 after protracted negotiations. The first P-3A (serial FAB 7200, ex-US Navy BuNo 152180) flew on 20 December 2005 from the AMARC storage facility at Davis-Monthan, Arizona, departing for EADS-CASA's Getafe facility in Spain on 10 January 2006 for upgrade. The second example (BuNo 152174/FAB7201) followed on 22 May 2006. The first P-3AM was delivered to Brazil on 24 March 2008 to join 1/7° GAv at Salvador Air Base (BASB) and start replacing the unit's vintage P-95B Bandeirulhas.

FAB is also looking to replace its aging UH-1 helicopter fleet. In February 2004, the FAB sent a delegation to Alabama to discuss possible modifications needed on the 6-10 Black Hawks they were interested in purchasing. Congressional approval was expected in November 2004 with the final LOR valued at $166M for 10 BLACKHAWK Helicopters. FAB put initial investment of $100M against a new FMS case for purchase of the BLACKHAWKS. First delivery was expected in June 2005 for two helicopters.

On June 29, 2007 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Brazil of UH-60L BLACK HAWK helicopters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $300 million. The Government of Brazil has requested a possible sale of 6 UH-60L BLACK HAWK helicopters with 12 T-700-GE-701C engines, 2 spare T-700-GE-701C engines, warranty, external hoist kits, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, contractor engineering and technical support services and other related elements of logistics support. A total of 16 had been delivered by 2013, and eventually Brazil may receive a total of 30 UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters.

The Brazilian Air Force has nine strategic high priority projects to be implemented by 2030. The total estimated value as of 2012 was R$132 billion (US$74 billion). The most important Air Force projects include:

  • Recovery of operating capacity: It includes activities such as pilot training, rebuilding the stock of weaponry, the technological upgrade of aircraft and systems on AMX, F5 fighters, Maritime patrol P-95, P-3BR, and KC-130 and C95M.
  • Airspace Control: This program will modernize the Aerospace Defense Operation Center (Centro de Operações de Defesa Aeroespacial) and acquire a new navigation control system called CNS/ATM.
  • Operational Capability: This is one of most important projects among all as it includes the acquisition of several aircraft and equipment such as:
  • F-X2 project: acquisition of 36 fighter jets. There were three competitors: Boeing (Super Hornet), Saab (Gripen) and Dassault (Rafale).
  • KC-X2 project: acquisition of two transport and replenishment aircraft to replace the KC-137. The Brazilian Air Force recently announced the Boeing 767-300 as the winner. The aircraft will be outfitted by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
  • VU-Y: acquisition of ten transport aircraft to replace the VU-35 and the EC-93. This project is in study phase.
  • VANT: The Brazilian Aerospace industry started developing an UAV in partnership with international companies. Transfer of technology is required.
  • CL-X: acquisition of six CASA 295 aircraft for transport and search and rescue. The acquisition process has already started.
  • Scientific-Technological Proficiency: This project aims to gain technological independence with the development of several aircraft such as R-X for reconnaissance missions, E-X alarm and control, I-X flight inspection, F-XBR multiuse fighter, and UAVs.
  • Strengthening Brazilian Aerospace and Defense Industry: This project aims to promote better integration between the Brazilian aerospace & defense industries with the Armed Forces.
  • Development Space Activities: The National Program for Space Activities (Programa Nacional de Atividades Espaciais - PNAE) establishes the requirement for the development of the geostationary satellite program and the launch vehicle program. On 18 April 2010 a Rostvertol plc delegation headed by Director-General Mr. Boris N. Slyusar participated in a grand ceremony on the occasion of handing over the Mi-35M to the Brazilian Air Force. It was the first batch of Russian-made combat helicopters adopted by Brazilian squadrons. The ceremony took place at Porto Velho airbase. The Minister of Defence christened the Mi-35M helicopters with the name “Sabre AH-2.” Sabre is the first ever combat helicopter received by Brazilian Air Force. Before H-50 Esquilo was used as an attack rotorcraft which is actually a commercial helicopter re-equipped for combat application.

    Russia would complete the delivery to Brazil of 12 Mi-35 (AH-2 Sabre) attack helicopters worth $150 million by the fall of 2013, the head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) said on 10 April 2013. “As of today, nine helicopters have been delivered and the remaining three will be shipped in the fall,” FSMTC director Alexander Fomin said at the LAAD 2013 defense exhibition in Rio de Janeiro. The Mi-35M is an export version of the Mi-24 Hind that was used extensively in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The Mi-24/35 is unique among dedicated attack helicopters insofar as it can carry troops, in addition to performing its attack role. Brazil signed the contract to purchase the helicopters back in 2008. The Sao Paulo-based newspaper Valor Economico previously reported that the Mi-35s would be used in the Amazon region, in conjunction with Brazil's Embraer land and ground surveillance jets. The Amazon region borders both Venezuela and Colombia, and is a prime location for transnational narco-terrorists and drug traffickers.

    The Brazilian government announced 18 December 2013 the selection of Gripen NG. The announcement was to be followed by negotiations with the Brazilian Air Force aiming at a procurement of 36 Gripen NG. The offer presented to the Brazilian Government by Saab includes Gripen NG, sub-systems for Gripen NG, an extensive technology transfer package, a financing package as well as long term bi-lateral collaboration between the Brazilian and Swedish Governments. The announcement would be followed by negotiations with the Brazilian Air Force aiming at a procurement of 36 Gripen NG.

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