Brazil begins production of Gripen fighter-bombers with focus on LatAm sales

Gaviao Peixoto, Brazil, May 9 (EFE).- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday inaugurated the local production line for Gripen fighter-bombers, which will be manufactured for sale to other Latin American countries.

Officials from Brazil and Sweden – which produces the warplanes – attended the ceremony, emphasizing the economic potential of the collaboration designed to foster technology exchange, strengthen Brazil’s defense industry and open up market opportunities for Sweden.

Sweden’s civil defense minister, Carl-Oskar Bohlin said that the partnership between Brazil’s Embraer aeronautics firm and SAAB will be “fundamental” for enabling the Swedish aircraft manufacturer to enter the Latin American market, a region he said is of “great strategic value” for his country as a defense products market.

The same sentiment was expressed by Brazilian Defense Minister Jose Mucio, who emphasized the agreement signed by the two nations in 2013 that includes Brasilia’s acquisition of 36 Gripen warplanes and, in a second phase, the production of the jets in Brazil for sale to other Latin American nations.

“It’s a strategic project for Brazil’s defense industry,” Mucio said.

The minister added that the Gripens will be assembled at the same plant in the city of Gaviao Peixoto, in Sao Paulo state, where Embraer’s KC390 military cargo plane is manufactured, that aircraft providing an alternative to the US Hercules C130.

SAAB President Micael Johansson, who also participated in the inauguration ceremony, hailed the “long-term partnership” with Brazil and said that Brasilia “will be an essential partner for attending to regional demand.”

The Gripen, 14 meters (46 feet) in length and with a wingspan of 8.6 meters (28.2 feet), can attain speeds of up to 2,400 kilometers (just under 1,500 miles) per hour, fly at an altitude of 16,000 meters (52,500 feet) and needs only 10 minutes between missions to refuel.

The models that will be manufactured in Brazil can be equipped with short- and long-range missiles, bombs and laser-guided missiles, radar and electro-optical systems.

Lula did not speak at the ceremony, but he visited the installation where the jets will be assembled, and Mucio noted that the agreement with SAAB began with a bidding process launched in 2009, when the progressive Brazilian president was serving his second consecutive term, having come into office in 2003.

Of the 36 planes acquired by Brazil, four are already in service with the country’s air force and this week two more will arrive. In all, Sweden will deliver 19 of the 36 planes and the other 17 will be assembled in Gaviao Peixoto in collaboration with Embraer.

Once the plant is fully up and running, production of the jets in Brazil will be geared toward exports, above all to other Latin American countries, with Colombia already having expressed an interest.

EFE –/bp

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