What do Brazil, Iraq, Egypt and 60 Minutes Have in Common? Missing Air Combat Exports


2014-02-19  Brazil, Iraq, Egypt and 60 Minutes may seem an odd mix and match of players but they do have one thing in common: US air combat exports are missing in action.

With regard to Brazil, the F-18 was well positioned to become the next generation of Brazil air combat assets.  Due to a variety of factors, and despite comments by pundits to the contrary, the NSA surveillance issue was a big one, the Brazilians chose Gripen over the F-18.

Next up is the curious case of Iraq.  You can still see bumper stickers on cars warning US citizens that the war in Iraq should not be about oil.  Well the Chinese have sorted that one out.  And due to the inability to sort out a status of forces agreement, the US is not in a pivot position in Iraq defense.

Curiously, however, those much criticized private contractors Inside the Beltway, are still in Iraq and the Iraqis apparently find them essential to their defense.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Hundreds of contractors working for America’s biggest defense companies are taking on a broader role in helping Iraq’s military learn to use new weapons in a growing battle against Islamist insurgents. 

Over the next few months, the U.S. government is expected to begin sending more than $6 billion in military equipment to Iraq. The latest deal includes 24 Apache attack helicopters made by Boeing Co. and nearly 500 Hellfire missiles produced by Lockheed Martin Corp. 

While the helicopters may not arrive in time to help with the current fighting, the missiles are expected to be used by the Iraqi military in the battle to uproot Islamic fighters from Ramadi and Fallujah, cities that were the focus of major U.S. military operations during the height of the war in Iraq.

Nonetheless, F-16s are not among the kit being procured, for the South Koreans are selling Iraq their trainer and lighter combat version of the F-16 known as the T-50.

According to Reuters:

South Korean defense contractor Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) has signed a deal with Iraq to export 24 light fighter jets valued at $1.1 billion, the company said on Thursday.

The deal to supply FA-50 aircraft also includes training for Iraqi pilots and other support for the Iraqi Air Force for the next two decades, which could push the total value of the deal to $2 billion, the contractor said in a statement.

The FA-50 is a light attack variant of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer that was co-developed by KAI and U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Iraqi version of the FA-50, labeled the T-50 IQ, can be armed with air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, machine guns and precision-guided bombs along with other munitions, KAI said.

“This deal will improve the performance of the Ministries of Defense and Interior in defending the country and in fighting terrorism,” a statement from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said.

Iraq has sought F-16 fighter jets from the United States as part of a deal to rebuild its airforce.

Instead of additional F-16s, the Egyptians are to receive Mig-29s. Credit Photo: defenceWeb
Instead of additional F-16s, the Egyptians are to receive Mig-29s. Credit Photo: defenceWeb 

Next up is Egypt, now a casualty of the Arab Spring, and in the doghouse with Washington.

Remember the great moment early in the Obama Administration where the Arab Spring was declared a powerful force for good but then something happened and now it is not a country you want to include in your breakfast club.

Yet the conservative Arab regimes are supporting the Egyptian government because of clearly not wanting alternatives in power.

So much so that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are bankrolling the Russians (remember those guys backing Assad) to provide for alternatives to US arms and combat aircraft.

Egypt is close to finalizing a $3 billion agreement for Russian arms financed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following a meeting between Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders met in Moscow on February 13. 

Shortly afterwards, Russian daily Vedomosti quoted two government sources as saying that contracts had been ‘initialled or signed’ for a variety of hardware, including MiG-29 fighter jets, Mi-35 attack helicopters, small arms and air defence systems. 

In November last year it was reported that Egypt was seeking to purchase arms from Russia following a cut in US military aid to the country. 

According to Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Russian Defence Ministry’s advisory board and head of the Russian Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), Egypt was looking to buy $2 billion worth of Russian weaponry. 

In November a Russian military delegation headed by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Egypt for two-day talks on military-technical cooperation. The visit by the Russian delegation included officials from state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, which is seeking to sell MiG-29 fighters to the North African country.

And finally, after six months of intense research according to themselves, 60 Minutes recently provided its look at the F-35 program.

The “intense” research effort did not include the question of the global enterprise of the F-35, the clean sweep of allies in the Pacific or the key role of three manufacturing lines (two foreign) in the program. 

One could certainly note that the head of the Joint Program office failed to get around to this point, but even a cursory google search would turn up all the folks buying the aircraft.

As one of the principals featured on the 60 Minutes program wrote to us:

“IS this a global program?  Amazing that gets overlooked.”

This not only means jobs, here and abroad, but a central role for the US working with its allies in shaping the next generation of air combat.

But that would not make a good visual.