AFTER 15 years of waiting, it was announced this evening that Saab and its Gripen NG had been selected by the Brazilian Government, as the winner of its multi-billion dollar F-X2 fighter programme. The announcement came during a press conference held by the Brazilian Defence Minister, Celso Amorim, and the Brazilian Air Force Commander, Brigadier Juniti Saito. After more than fifteen years of a long delayed selection process, the aircraft is to become the main fighter of the Brazilian Air Force.
It has been a long journey, as the first F-X program started in 1998 and suffered many setbacks until now.
All this comes despite, the then Brazilian president Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva announcing in September 2009, during a visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, that Rafale had won.
Nevertheless the process continued, due to lack of funds and because the Brazilian Air Force preferred the Gripen, which was also the cheapest of the three options pre-selected, the other was the Super Hornet. The main obstacle for the Gripen NG was it was still under development.
However on December 14, the current Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, informed François Hollande, the Rafale had not been selected. The Super Hornet was ignored because the Brazilians wanted a major technology transfer and Boeing would not go that far. While it wasn’t too clear on how much technology Boeing would transfer, even though their offer was cheaper than the French one. It is unclear if the Brazilian decision was swayed by the scandal that the US spied on them.
The plan is to make an initial order of twelve aircraft, but to increase it later to a total of 36 aircraft for about $5 billion. Initially, they will replace the Mirage 2000C/D of the 1º Grupo de Defesa Aérea of Anápolis Air Base, which are being retired on December 31, 2013. In the future they will also replace the Northrop F-5EM and possibly AMX.
The naval version of the Gripen NG is also being offered to the Brazilian Navy to replace their A-4KU Skyhawks and a model of the São Paulo carrier equipped with Gripens was showed at the last edition of LAAD Fair in Rio de Janeiro on April 2013, while a simulator of the version was showed. Santiago Rivas