Britain is ramping up efforts to sell about 11 new naval vessels, including frigates, to the Brazilian Navy in a bid to catch up with marketing efforts launched by France and Italy, according to a recent article from DefenseNews.
Brazil is mulling the purchase of five offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), one logistics vessel and five frigates to renew its fleet. France and, most notably, Italy have already been active this year in pushing their platforms on the South American country, with both proposing the FREMM frigate now being built for the French and Italian navies by home players DCNS and Fincantieri, respectively.
In a busy year for Brazilian ports, the French Horizon air defence destroyer Chevalier Paul visited this summer, following in the wake of the Italian Horizon vessel Andrea Doria and Italy's new aircraft carrier Cavour. During Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's July visit, cooperation deals between the two countries' defence ministries and navies were signed.
Britain is working to make up for lost time. Two ministers from the recently elected Conservative-led coalition have visited Rio de Janeiro in the last month, including U.K. Defence Minister Gerald Howarth, who agreed to a deal on defense cooperation.
Howarth's visit was accompanied by the Royal Navy's biggest ship - the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean - which undertook diplomacy and exercise duties.
After reportedly starting the year looking for five OPVs, Brazil has switched to the idea of a package of vessels. Deals may be signed after national elections at the end of the year, but industry officials said a signature could be many months away, pointing to the time Brazil has spent deciding on a new fighter jet.
British maritime prime BAE Systems has already submitted headline proposals on meeting the requirement and has been asked by the Brazilians to deliver a more detailed package in the next few weeks.
Other British suppliers are also making a pitch for naval business. BMT Defence Services has been in talks for some time with Brazil over a possible deal involving the company's logistic ship designs.
U.K. industry executives said the Brazilians are testing the market with unofficial requests for proposals.
BAE believes it can offer the Brazilians something its European rivals can't match: a seat at the table in the design and development of a new frigate destined for the Royal Navy and possibly other navies. Our proposals include an invitation to become an international partner in our new Global Combat Ship program, the export version of the Type 26 frigate, said Dean McCumiskey, BAE managing director for the region.
The British are already talking to potential international partners, including Australia and New Zealand, about development of a warship that is presently in the early stages of a 130 million pound (206 million USD) assessment phase to produce the Type 26 frigate for the Royal Navy.
We are proposing something along the lines of a Joint Strike Fighter partnering model for warships with a series of bilateral arrangements with other nations, one industry executive said. With FREMM, it will be take it or leave it, or at best involve the Brazilians in spending a lot of money changing the vessels to meet their requirements. A partnership on the Global Combat Ship means you can help shape the direction of the program rather than get a vessel designed in the 1990s for someone else.
BAE said, in a recent statement, that in the near term it believes its OPVs based on the Royal Navy's River class will be an attractive option for the Brazilians. The company said aircraft carrier designs could ultimately be involved in the offer.
Muir Macdonald, managing director at BMT Defence Services, a leading U.K. naval design house, said that while the Brazilians had requested international bidders present proposals that cover a package of three warship types, the country could eventually mix and match depending on where the best technology was available.
With the Royal Navy fleet in decline, the U.K. government, the Navy and industry are stepping up cooperation in a bid to generate affordable and flexible ships that will also attract exports. Type 26 development and the effort to partner with Brazil are among the policy's first tests.
Small and medium-sized players in the U.K. maritime market said it is important the British government pulled together in a Team U.K. approach for Brazil to get the best offering possible.