BRASILIA, Brazil, July 12 (UPI)
Rival defense manufacturers spent vast sums trying to secure it but a multibillion-dollar Brazilian contract for up to 100 fighter jets is unlikely to come up for government review until next year, with little indication of an early deal that suits priorities set by President Dilma Rousseff.
Each of the key manufacturers in the race -- Boeing Co., France's Dassault and Sweden's Saab -- has had its hopes raised in the last two years.
The lobbying for the contract has involved government and state leaders at the highest levels, with even the king of Sweden at one point was considered as an intermediary.
The deal for an initial 30 of the projected 100 jets for the Brazilian air force inventory is worth more than $4 billion but no confirmed figures have emerged from Brasilia.
Aside from the price and relative efficiency of the competing aircraft, at issue is Brazil's insistence on extensive transfer of technology as part of its overall strategy to start manufacturing a jet fighter of its own.
That's a tough call for the bidders, as none of them find the prospect of the customer turning into an arch competitor in a lucrative area of defense industry, believed to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in future sales. Air forces worldwide are considering phasing out jet fighters bought from the 1950s onward.
Brazil has emerged as a major competitor for European and North American manufacturers of executive jets and smaller passenger aircraft, mainly the result of an extensive research and development program pursued without significant foreign help.
In 2009 France appeared to be the contender most likely to win the contract with Dassault's Rafale jet fighter, an aircraft mainly deployed in France but that prospect vanished when former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva handed over power to Rousseff this year.
U.S. President Barack Obama's visit in March raised hopes that Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet might emerge as the new favorite but Rousseff's administration cited budgetary constraints and issued the first of several postponements of a decision on the jet deal.
Saab's modified and modernized Gripen NG -- for New Generation -- is a serious contender and uses the General Electric F414G engine, developed from the F/A-18E/F used on the Super Hornet's engine.
So far, the French have offered the most generous technology transfer terms, the Swedes appear constrained somewhat by borrowed components and also wary of giving away precious information they see vital to maintaining a foothold in a competitive jet fighter market.
The Russians and the Chinese have been out of the race but industry analysts said that shouldn't be a cause for complacency of the competing defense industries of those two countries.
Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim told reporters during a visit to France the government won't review the jet fighter deal until next year.
He cited the government's preoccupation with domestic concerns as the reason for the postponement.
However, he said, "The principal necessity is technology transfer."