Brazilian media has confirmed that Argentina is probing to join with Brazil in the procurement of 24 Saab Gripen NG fighters, following the recently signed bilateral cooperation agreement under the heading of “Aeronautic industry strategic alliance” (AEIA), which was discussed this month by the two countries defense ministers.
AEIA is intended to develop potential procurement and Argentina's participation in the production of the Saab-designed aircraft, which would be another chapter in the already close cooperation since the Cordoba air-frame factory (Argentine Aircraft Manufacturing) has supplied parts for the recently rolled out KC-390, a Brazilian entirely designed and manufactured military transport aircraft, which is expected to compete with the US Hercules.
The decision follows on Brazil's confirmation that it will be contracting with Sweden's Saab, a 5.4bn dollars deal for the purchase of 36 Gripen NG multi-role fighter jets, which includes a significant technology and air-bionics transfer package. Allegedly under the terms reached with Saab, the aircraft will be locally manufactured by Embraer the huge civilian and military corporation located in Gaviao Peixoto, Sao Paulo State.
The terms of the AEIA were finalized during the visit 21 October of Argentina's Defense minister Agustin Rossi to the KC-390 ceremony, a project involving over 5bn dollars but which already has a considerable demand list from several air forces including Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
The modernization of the Argentine Air Force which lost over fifty aircraft during the Falklands conflict is long overdue with most of its US made A-4AR Skyhawk reaching the end of their usable life. Another ten fighter jets currently in service, among which French built Dassault Mirage III, V and IAI are also considered obsolete or in desperate need of spares.
Brazil’s Ministry of Defense said the talks over the possible purchase of 24 Brazil-produced Gripens would include not only the conditions of purchase but also Argentina’s participation in the production of the Saab-designed aircraft.
“Our willingness to cooperate with Argentina, our neighbor and ally, is total,” said Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim. He added that for Brazil the association with Argentina is fundamental and the most strategic of all alliances.
Mr. Amorim who is also a former foreign minister and an experienced and acknowledged diplomat added that the AEIA agreement is 'doubly strategic' since it refers not only to cooperation in defense but also in the airspace industry and could be extended to naval yards to build frigates, corvettes and fluvial patrols.
Argentina and Brazil already have close links in other defense projects in the framework of the Unasur (Union of South American Nations) Defense Council, which with other country members are involved in the development of a basic training aircraft for the region and UAVs.
Apparently for Argentina the AEIA deal with Brazil for the purchase of 24 Saab Gripens and be a partner in the production could involve investments in the range of 3bn dollars which the dollar-strapped country does not have. However this is a long term project and could be the solution to the several failed attempts to purchase refurbished Mirages from Spain and Kfir from Israel.