Brazil said Wednesday it hopes to develop state-of-the-art combat aircraft with Russia, and purchase surface-to-air missile batteries from Moscow.
Brasilia is already in talks with other countries to modernize its air force by purchasing 36 fighter jets valued at up to $5 billion.
US firm Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet is competing against the Rafale made by France’s Dassault and Saab of Sweden’s Gripen NG for the lucrative fourth-generation aircraft contract.
“We are very interested in discussing projects relating to fifth generation (combat) aircraft with new partners,” Defense Minister Celso Amorim told reporters after talks here with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
“The issue was mentioned as a basis for discussion, but it is for the medium term.”
Amorim said he hoped the fourth-generation aircraft bidding process would be “finalized soon.”
But Boeing’s bid to win the contract appears to have been damaged by reports of extensive US spying on Brazil.
The allegations, based on documents leaked by fugitive US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, led President Dilma Rousseff to cancel a state visit to Washington, putting Boeing’s bid on hold, Boeing Brazil chief Donna Hrinak said last week.
“The postponement of the visit means that any progress about the issue (aircraft contract) was also postponed,” Hrinak, a former US ambassador to Brazil, said during a seminar on the Brazilian economy.
Amorim’s talks with Shoigu also yielded progress in talks for Brasilia to acquire Russian surface-to-air missile batteries valued at $1 billion, complete with technology transfer.
“It is a well-advanced project. We expect a Brazilian technical mission to go to Russia in a month or two and the contract should be signed late next year,” Amorim said.
The Russian missile batteries would help boost security during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Shoigu’s visit, following high-level talks in nearby Peru, comes as Moscow has raised its profile throughout Latin America in recent years with strengthened military and trade ties.
His stop in Brazil also coincides with Rousseff pressing for the release of a Brazilian biologist detained in Russia along with 29 other Greenpeace activists after protesting Arctic oil drilling.
Ana Paula Maciel was one of 30 activists from 18 countries arrested by Russia in late September and charged with piracy after authorities said they had found “narcotic substances” on the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise, used in their protest.
Greenpeace has denied the allegation as a “smear,” and the arrests have triggered international protests.