Swedish aerospace maker Saab won a $5 billion contract to equip the Brazilian air force with 36 new fighter jets, Defense Minister Celso Amorim announced Wednesday.

Saab’s Gripen, a state-of-the-art multi-role fighter jet, beat its two rivals — the Rafale, made by France’s Dassault company, and US aviation giant Boeing’s F/A-18 fighter — for the lucrative contract.

“After analyzing all the facts, President Dilma Rousseff directed me to inform that the winner of the contract for the acquisition of the 36 fighter jets for the Brazilian Air Force is the Swedish Gripen NG,” Amorim told a press conference.

The announcement came after more than 10 years of discussions and repeated delays due to budgetary constraints.

The Gripen, which was said to be the cheapest of the three aircraft, is capable of performing an extensive range of air-to-air, air-to-surface and reconnaissance missions.

It is in use in the air forces of Britain, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Thailand and Hungary.

The Brazilian air force insisted it needed the new fighter aircraft to maintain an adequate air defense as it is to retire its 12 Mirage jets in late December.

Brazil bought the refurbished Mirage 2000 C/Bs from France in 2005 for $80 million to fly for five years.

Brazil insisted on technology transfers so that the planes can be assembled in this country and give a boost to the domestic defense industry.

Rousseff had postponed a decision on the FX-2 replacement contract in early 2011 for budgetary reasons but air force chiefs have made it clear that it was an urgent matter.