Pricey Gripens, Brazil Might Just Tape Old F-16s Together Instead!

Brazil is considering acquiring used American F-16 fighter jets as a temporary solution for national defense due to the high cost of the Gripen fighter jet program. The Brazilian Air Force has not yet made any negotiations with governments or companies, and the only interaction is aimed at gathering data. The Gripen program's philosophy, which includes the production of the Swedish fighter in Brazil and the extensive technology transfer by Swedish SAAB, is at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, budgetary constraints, and the Ukrainian war. The Brazilian government is interested in pushing a package deal that would involve the sale of several Embraer KC-390 military transport aircraft to Sweden in exchange for an improved 2014 contract for Gripen jets.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Discontent with the high cost of the Gripen fighter jet program, the Brazilian Air Force has announced that it is exploring the possibility of acquiring a batch of used American F-16 jets, at least as a temporary solution for national defense.

The Brazilian Air Force stated on June 14, “However, the analysis has nothing to do with Gripen’s capabilities. No negotiations with governments or companies are underway, the quantity or versions are not defined. The only interaction on this issue has been aimed at gathering data.”

In an article titled “Brazil considers buying used F-16 fighters due to the price of the Gripen,” the Brazilian publication “Folha de S.Paulo” offers the following clarifications regarding previous media reports regarding Brazil’s intention to acquire used F-16 fighter jets from the United States.

The article clarified the Brazilian Air Force’s motives through conversations with military personnel, which are not mentioned in the Air Force statement. Nevertheless, the affirmation of rumors, substantiated by a publication in the British defense magazine Jane’s on June 12, had the effect of a bombshell in military circles.

This intention risks the entire Gripen program’s philosophy, which includes the production of this Swedish fighter in Brazil and the extensive technology transfer by Swedish SAAB to create a unified combat aircraft fleet. Brazil currently operates multiple aircraft. 

Money and schedule are the primary concerns. The program has been repeatedly postponed over the years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of budgetary resources, and the Ukrainian war. In response to the European security situation, Sweden sought to expedite its own deliveries of the new generation Gripen, which has been acquired by only this Scandinavian country and Brazil.

Additionally, there is an immediate issue. Sweden’s delivery pace is currently sluggish, and the Embraer AMX attack aircraft, one of the planes expected to replace the Gripen, will begin to be phased out at the Santa Maria base by the end of 2025.

This situation has prompted individuals who are familiar with the circumstances within President Lula’s government to speculate that the statement regarding the potential acquisition of F-16s is intended to exert pressure on the Swedes to improve on the conditions of the ongoing negotiations, which have been ongoing since last year, to provide Brazil with additional Gripen units.  

The Brazilian government is interested in pushing a package deal that would involve the sale of several Embraer KC-390 military transport aircraft to Sweden in exchange for the exercise of the option to improve the 2014 contract for the purchase of Gripen jets by 25%.

This amounts to an additional 5 billion reais in expenditures for 14 additional Gripen jets, in addition to the 36 that were originally ordered. Embraer, Saab’s partner, will manufacture 15 of the jets at its Gavião Peixoto assembly line in São Paulo state.

The contract for 36 Gripen jets itself was valued at 39.3 billion Swedish kronor, or just over 20 billion reais at current exchange rates. This amount is financed by the Stockholm government through a 25-year loan, but the Brazilian Air Force must make advance payments, which will be deducted later.

From 2019 to 2023, contract cost adjustments due to exchange rate differences amounted to 7.7 billion reais, with 1.2 billion reais last year alone. Folha newspaper writes that the planned delivery schedule for Gripen jets manufactured in Brazil seems unattainable at the current pace.

According to a senior Brazilian Air Force officer, the price issue is significant, even though it is unknown where the government will find the money for an immediate purchase. The F-16 is a jet in short supply worldwide, which is why Ukraine preferred it in its request for fighters from the West.

Argentina agreed in April to buy 24 used F-16s from Denmark for $300 million ( about 1.6 billion reais today), a fraction of the cost of 14 new Gripen jets.

Of course, these are incomparable aircraft, and the price issue contrasts a decade-long technology transfer program. As those connected to the project note, the Gripen JAS-39E/F is a new aircraft developed with national participation, which takes longer than purchasing ready-made, used jets.

According to Jane’s magazine, Brazil also wants to obtain 24 F-16C/D jets, which are less outdated than those Milei bought. These are less powerful jets than the Gripen but are considered adequate for Brazil’s needs.

As a note, on March 27, in front of the French community in Sao Paulo, French President Emmanuel Macron lauded the renewed alliance with Brazil and voiced confidence that Brazilians will eventually purchase Rafale fighters from France.

“And who knows, revive discussions about the Rafale because I believe that nothing is ever lost,” said Macron.


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