2014-03-14 By Kenneth Maxwell
Brazil quietly deepening air combat capabilities and promoting overseas civilian aircraft exports
After years of delays over the choice of a new generation of jet fighter aircraft Brazil has been quietly developing its defense capabilities.
The decision to go ahead with the deal with Swedish company Saab to purchase a new generation of 36 Gripen NG jet fighter aircraft was announced by President Dilma Rousseff on December 18th. The US$ 4.5 billion contact foresees the provision of the aircraft between 2018 and 2023. Currently the Brazilian Air Force has a fleet of 57 F-5 jet fighters most of which have been modernized.
But the new deal has already brought several beneficial consequences for the Brazilian aerospace industry, expanded its overseas marketing, and enhanced Brazil’s international collaboration.
The commander of the Brazilian Air Force, Tentente-Brigadeiro Junito Saito, told the Brazilian Senate Committee on External Relations on February 27 at a public hearing that he anticipated that between 2,000 to 3,00 jobs would be created in Brazil as well as 22,000 indirect jobs as a result of the deal. These jobs would be distributed between Embraer at the future assembly line at Sao Bernardo de Campos in Sao Paulo State and components produced at Porto Alegre in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Junito Saito said that the main reason for the deal with Saab was that the aircraft would be assembled in Brazil and that Brazil would have access to source codes, which would enable Brazil to equip the Grippen NG with armaments produced, by several countries and be able to integrate those weapons themselves.
This would also enable Brazil to acquire knowledge to later enter the 5th generation fighter age.
Junito Saito told the Senate Committee on External Relations that 80% of the fighter jets would be produced in Brazil. The Grippen NG was not a 5th general aircraft he said. Only the US has these with the F-22s. But Russia and China were developing 5th generation jets.
Saito also said that the Swedish Air Force was providing a temporary solution to the short fall in Brazil’s defense capabilities over the 4 years before the new planes began to come on line by providing 10 to 12 Grippen fighter jets to Brazil beginning in 2016 until 2020.
These would be Grippen C/D already in service with several air forces. He said that Brazilian pilots were to begin training in Sweden in August.
General Saito said the new squadron of Brazil’s Grippen NG’s would be in service in 2020.
Brazil has also been developing its civilian aircraft production.
Mariana Barbosa on March 7th reported in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo on Brazil’s continuing successful competition in the civil aviation field where Embraer has maintained its position as a leader in the international market for business jets
Brazil has sold passenger jet aircraft to companies including Azul (Brazil), Air France, Air Canada, American Airlines, Austral (Argentina), British Airways, Copa Airlines (Panama) JAL (Japan), and KLM Cityhopper.
On 8th March 2004 Embraer delivered its first E-jets (E-170) to the Polish company Lot and to US Airways. Since then Embraer has delivered E-jets to 65 companies in 45 countries.
Bombardier C5 100 has been Brazil’s principle competitor in this area. Embraer currently has 51% of the market and Bombardier 25%.
But China, Japan, and Russia are seeking part of this market with COMAC (China) ARJ 21, Mitsubshi (Japan) 165 MRjs, and Russia’s Sukhoi Super Jet 100 and Antonov 110.
The Sukhoi entered into service in 2011and the Russians have delivered 32 so far. The Antonov began service last year with Cubana Aviacion with three An-158, and negotionations are underway with Bolivia. China and Japan each have orders for 300 each, but the COMAC is not expected to enter service until late this year, and Mitsubishi is expected in 2017.
The E-jet market is estimated to be worth some US$ 300 billion over the next twenty years with a demand for 6,400 new jets.
Embraer E2, the new generation of E-Jets, was launched in 2013, and the company has invested US$ 1.7 billion in the project. The E195-E2 will have 132 seats, a range of 2000 nautical miles, and the list price in 2014 is US$ 62.4 million.
“The new generation will be 16% more efficient in fuel consumption” Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva, the president of Embraer told Folha’s Mariana Barbosa. The first E2 will be ready in 2018 and Embraer already has 200 firm orders including from SkyWest and ILFC in the US and Air Costa in India, and 200 reserved.
In 2013 commercial aviation accounted for 53% of Embraer’s business, of which 27% was executive jets, and 19% defense.
Saab has also signed a contract worth US$59 million with Embraer to update between 2014 and 2017 the Brazilian Air Force’s air born early warning and control systems (AEW&C) on its E-99 aircraft, a fundamental part of Brazil’s capacity for surveillance of its vast frontiers.