Tuesday June 4, 7:28 pm Eastern Time
Reuters Company News
Brazil eyes Russia's 'Super Flanker' fighter
By Axel Bugge
BRASILIA, Brazil, June 4 (Reuters) - Russia's Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet has a "close to 90 percent" chance of being the winner in a Brazilian tender to buy up to 24 new supersonic fighters for $700 million, Sukhoi's Brazilian partner said on Tuesday.
The purchase, which may be decided next week, is set to be one of the biggest arms deals in recent Latin American history and is hotly contested by such heavyweights as Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT - News) with its F-16 fighter, BAE Systems Plc (London:BA.L - News) and Brazil's Embraer (Sao Paolo:EMBR4.SA - News; NYSE:ERJ - News) together with France's Dassault Aviation SA (Paris:AVMD.PA - News).
But Sukhoi's bid with its so-called Su-35 Super Flanker fighter is likely to beat them all, said Joao Brasil, a director at Brazilian rocket and missile maker Avibras Aerospacial SA, which will help produce the Russian jet if the partners win the contract.
Sweden's (Stockholm:SAABb.ST - News) Saab is bidding in the contest together with BAE with its Gripen fighter, while Embraer and Dassault are offering a version of Dassault's Mirage strike plane.
"We are not opening the Champagne bottles until next week," Brasil told Reuters, but added that "we are getting close to 90 percent" certainty of winning. "All the circumstantial evidence is pointing that way."
A report in daily Folha de Sao Paulo over the weekend said that Brazil's Air Force had pinpointed the Su-35 as its first choice in the competition on technical grounds, listing qualities such as its long flying range and extensive reach of its radar systems in addition to low price tag.
"If we can confirm that we are chosen technically, then we are sure to have won," said Brasil, adding that he had not seen the Air Force report as it had not been released.
However, politics and not just technicalities will enter into the play when the decision is taken. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the heads of both houses of Congress, the finance minister and defense ministers all sit on the council that has the final sy.
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