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Brazil’s Pursuit of 34 New Saab Gripen F-39E/F Fighter Jets Gains Momentum

In the wake of the Bolsonaro presidency’s years of scarcity, there appears to be a resolute determination from Lula to revolutionize the Força Aérea Brasileira. His objective is to elevate it to the foremost position in South American military aviation, an ambition that, upon reflection, appears to be grounded in sound logic.

Undeniably, the most crucial resolution made this week pertains to the impending procurement of thirty-four Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen multi-role combat aircraft and a duo of Airbus DS A330 MRTT aerial refueling tankers. This strategic move is aimed to supersede antiquated military hardware like the Italian-Brazilian AMX International A-1M and the Lockheed KC-130B Hercules, thereby marking a pivotal upgrade in the nation’s defense capabilities.

Furthermore, this decision signifies not only a significant shift in military strategy but also a noteworthy commercial triumph for the Swedish aircraft manufacturer, Saab. This procurement underscores their competitive edge in the global aerospace industry, affirming their standing as a leading manufacturer of state-of-the-art military aircraft.

Indeed, over the course of several years, Saab has faced a string of setbacks with its 4.5 generation monojet. The monojet has consistently been outperformed, whether it was by the French Dassault Aviation Rafale in Croatia and Indonesia, or by the Lockheed-Martin F-16V Viper in Bulgaria. Not to mention its losses against the American F-35A Lightning II in both Canada and the Netherlands, which only added to the series of defeats.

It was rather unforeseen when Brazil elected to place an order for an additional thirty-four aircraft, especially given the substantial delays the plane has previously endured within the nation. The financial circumstances of this South American country, it appears, do not extend to the acquisition of Rafale F4s or Typhoon Tranche 4s. Concurrently, Brazil’s affiliation with the BRICS alliance places it in a position where it is ineligible for the procurement of aircraft manufactured in the United States.

Undeniably, the prospect of procuring Russian equipment is off the table. President Lula, in his strategic wisdom, refrains from such actions to avoid straining the diplomatic ties with Washington DC.

It could thus be posited that the sole contender left standing is the JAS 39E/F Gripen. It indeed holds true. This aligns well with the strategic preferences of Brazilian decision-makers. The selection of a singular, versatile model of combat aircraft signifies a streamlined approach toward the utilization of air resources. This, in turn, promises considerable financial savings.

Prior to this point, the procurement of forty aircraft in December 2013 was strategically planned to supersede the Dassault Aviation F-2000C Mirage and Northrop F-5EM/FM Tiger II. This transition was successfully executed for the former model, even preceding the arrival of the first Swedish aircraft, and is projected to be completed for the latter within the forthcoming year.

It is anticipated that the Força Aérea Brasileira will place orders for thirty-four new aircraft in the weeks to come. These new additions are intended to supersede the AMX International A-1M, a single-jet ground attack and tactical reconnaissance aircraft currently in use. This course of action suggests an unequivocal intent on Brazil’s part to transition to an exclusively F-39E/F fleet by the close of the current decade or the onset of the next. It is noteworthy to mention that the F-39E/F is the local designation of the globally recognized JAS 39E/F Gripen.

Notably, the Brazilian state contract has been awarded to two distinguished aircraft manufacturers, Saab and Airbus DS. The latter, a prominent European entity, is entrusted with the provision of two KC-30A Fénix aircraft. These are not fresh off the assembly line but rather, are second-hand A330-200 airliners that have been meticulously converted to meet the A330 MRTT standard.

In a manner akin to the Phénix of the Air and Space Force or the Voyager KC.2 of the Royal Air Force, the Força Aérea Brasileira’s aircraft will serve dual roles – as in-flight refueling tankers and strategic transport and logistical support aircraft. This dual functionality broadens their scope and operational efficiency. The addition of these two aircraft will augment the singular one already in active service within Brazil.

This development, however, signifies another setback for Boeing and its KC-46A Pegasus, which continues to grapple with export challenges. Despite its technological sophistication, the KC-46A Pegasus has not managed to secure a solid foothold in the international market, a point underscored by this recent Brazilian acquisition.

Aside from the two variants of aircraft designated for the Força Aérea Brasileira, official announcements have been made regarding contracts for both armored terrestrial vehicles and military naval craft, encompassing both surface and submersible vessels. Furthermore, the prior administration’s agreement for the procurement of twenty-seven single-engine Airbus Helicopters H125 has been reaffirmed.