Brazilian Air Force expands order of F-39 Gripen fighter jets to 40 aircraft

Air Force Commander also confirmed negotiation with Saab for second batch of fighters

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) announced on Friday that the contract for the acquisition of F-39E/F Gripen fighters with Saab will be expanded from 36 to 40 aircraft.

The statement made by the Commander of the Force, Lieutenant Brigadier Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior, took place during an event held at the Santa Cruz Air Base, in Rio de Janeiro, which was attended by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Baptista Junior also revealed that the Air Force has already started the procedures to order a second batch of Gripen fighters. “In parallel [to the four new fighters] we have started preliminary studies for the acquisition of a second batch of these aircraft in order to ensure that the deactivation of the older fighter aircraft does not result in the loss of the ability to fulfill our mission of defending the homeland”, said the military in his speech.

The ceremony also included the induction of the Gripen FAB 4101 and FAB 4102, the first serial production fighters that arrived in Brazil earlier this month. The Air Force also confirmed its intention to establish a second air base on account of the four extra jets.

Focus on combat aircraft

Son of former Air Force commander Carlos de Almeida Baptista, who headed the force between 1999 and 2003 during Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s government, Baptista Junior took office a year ago after the crisis that culminated in the resignation of the three commanders of the military forces.

In a short time in office, the current commander has made a personalized management at the head of the Brazilian Air Force, which prioritizes combat aircraft to the detriment of regional integration aircraft.

Brazilian Air Force KC-390 (FAB)

Alleging budgetary restrictions, Baptista Junior reduced the order for KC-390 jets after threatening to unilaterally change the contract with Embraer.

The argument of financial restraint, however, has not been repeated with regard to Gripen fighters, of which it intends to have a very large fleet, despite the high cost of each aircraft.

On another front, his management at the head of the Aeronautics decided to select the A330 MRTT aerial refueling aircraft, from Airbus, without carrying out an open competition to other aircraft.

The Brazilian Air Force sought to acquire two A330-200 aircraft manufactured from 2014 onwards offering a maximum value of $80 million for both.

The A330 MSN 1492 (Leonardo Mello via FAB)

The only participant in the KC-X3 competition was Azul S.A, the group that controls Azul Linhas Aéreas. However, the company did not own Airbus jets, only the option to purchase a leased aircraft, registration PR-AIS, which was out of service. The other aircraft that will be delivered to the FAB is an Airbus that belonged to Avianca de Colombia and is stored in France.

Due to the single option for the MRTT, the Air Force will now have to pay the price requested by Airbus for transforming the two A330-200s, as the conversion work is exclusive to the European manufacturer.

In addition to Airbus, Boeing and Israel’s IAI also offer aircraft capable of aerial refueling, but they were left out of the competition.

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