Brasilia: The United States is prepared to make an unprecedented offer to transfer technology behind its F/A-18 fighter jets to Brazil to score a multi-billion-dollar contract, US officials said Wednesday.
US State Department under-secretary for arms control Ellen Tauscher and Pentagon acquisition and technology chief Ashton Carter said they outlined the proposal to Brazilian officials on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Accompanied in Brasilia by President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, Jim Jones, they said the technology transfer was part of a final gambit to try to persuade Brazil’s air force to buy 36 new combat aircraft.
The deal is worth up to an estimated four billion dollars and involves delivering the aircraft from 2014 to replace Brazil’s aging fleet of 12 French-made Mirage-2000 jets.
“The transfer… would be something that we had never done before, and specifically because the relation with Brazil is so prized, so significant for us,” Tauscher told reporters.
She stressed that the move would be a “big departure from what the US typically does” when it exports sophisticated weaponry, and added that a decision would be made in the next 45-60 days.
Carter said: “We want to have a technology relationship with Brazil that gets deeper and deeper with the time. This is just the first step.”
The offer appeared an attempt to blunt competing bids from France’s Dassault, which was putting forward its advanced Rafale fighter, and Sweden’s Saab, which was proposing its yet-to-be-built Gripen NG.
The Rafale, which has stealth-like technology and cutting-edge cockpit interfaces and threat detection, was seen as Brazil’s favored choice, largely because France was offering full transfer of technology — the key demand in the tender.
Saab, too, has promised to share knowhow with Brazil — even though the Gripen’s engines were US-designed and therefore subject to US foreign military sales authorization.
It was unclear what technology the United States was prepared to share from the F/A-18, which was the oldest model aircraft on offer, having been flying since 1980.
One consideration, both for Brazil and for the United States, was likely to be how the F/A-18 might stack up against Venezuela’s air force should any future confrontation take place.
Venezuela recently purchased 24 Russian and Chinese-developed Su-30MK2s, a modern fighter considered to have superior performance over the US plane.