Brazil is the dominant nation in South America. By far the largest country on the continent, it borders all but two of the others. Commonly discussed as one of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Brazil is routinely ranked among the fastest growing economies of the developing world. With its increasing international profile, Brazil has begun to modernise its defence capabilities and nurture its aerospace sector.
In December 2013, after many years of detailed evaluation, the Brazilian government selected Saab to supply 36 Gripen fighter planes in its Air Force’s F-X2 fighter programme.
Brazil’s defence minister emphasised that a combination of several advantages proved decisive for Saab. He noted that the bid offered the best balance between Gripen’s high operational performance, favourable acquisition and maintenance costs, and Saab’s offer of technology transfer and industrial partnership.
Bo Torrestedt, Saab’s Head of Region Latin America, has been working in and around Brazil for the past 25 years. “The cost of running our system is substantially less than either of the other bidders,” Torrestedt says. A study by the military analysts IHS Jane’s found that the Gripen has the lowest operating cost of any Western fighter currently on the market, at USD 4,700 per hour compared with USD 11,000 for Boeing’s F/a-18e/F Super Hornet and USD 16,500 for Dassault’s Rafale, the other two aircraft under consideration.
Saab will share technology with contractors, and many parts for the aircraft will be made in Brazil. “The Gripen NG is taking a big step into next-generation fighters,” Torrestedt says. “With that comes a lot of improvements that make it a new aircraft. Certain engineering and development work will be done in Brazil, while other parts of the work are done in Sweden.”
Saab already has a significant footprint in Brazil, as the country has been flying surveillance planes equipped with Saab’s Erieye Airborne Early Warning and control system for the past 13 years. The company has also provided training and simulation equipment, surface-to-air missiles, missile-tracking radar systems and electronic warfare and marine equipment.
This history, combined with the lengthy selection process for the fighter jet contract, has given Saab a high profile in Brazil that could influence decisions by neighbouring countries, such as Chile, Mexico, Peru and Colombia. Torrestedt says that for a long time Europe’s interest in Latin America was overshadowed by its involvement in Asia and other regions, but that interest has increased sharply in recent years.
“Today Latin America has a much more stable economy, it is much more stable politically, and it is increasing its spending on defence and security because many of the countries have old, obsolete materiel.”
Next week, Saab will participate at LAAD 2015, one of the largest defense and security exhibitions in the region. To find out more about Saab’s activities at the event visit http://www.saabgroup.com/laad2015.