US to reopen bidding for plane contract eyed by Brazil

The United States has told Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer that it will reopen bidding for 20 light support planes after canceling a contract with the company, a Brazilian minister said Friday.

"They did not give official notice, but informally, they said: 'Wait for another tender, we are expecting a new tender,'" Industry and Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel told journalists.

Washington assured Embraer that "there will be another round, there will be another tender," he added.

Last month, the Pentagon canceled a $355 million contract with US firm Sierra Nevada Corp. and Brazil's Embraer, and announced an investigation after a legal challenge from rival American aerospace firm Hawker Beechcraft Corp.

The contract for 20 Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano aircraft had been awarded in December as part of plans to arm the Afghan military amid a NATO troop drawdown.

But the US Air Force said in February that it was not "satisfied" with the paperwork and announced a review of the award.

"The Brazilian government has already expressed its surprise at the US Air Force's decision. We won't go further than this," Pimentel said when asked whether the US move, coming a month before President Dilma Rousseff's visit to Washington," would have an impact on bilateral ties.

But he said the issue would certainly come up in Rousseff's talks with US President Barack Obama.

On a visit to Rio de Janeiro early this month, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said Washington remains interested in a possible purchase and said the contract cancelation was not a reflection on the Super Tucano which he described as "a very fine aircraft."

A Brazilian government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier that the cancelation of the contract with Embraer would "be taken into account" when Brasilia decides on a tender for 36 aircraft for its air force valued between $4 billion and $7 billion.

Brazil is expected to choose between the Rafale, made by French firm Dassault; the F/A-18 Super Hornet, manufactured by US aviation giant Boeing and Swedish manufacturer Saab's Gripen jet in the first half of this year.

The AT-29 Super Tucano, a turboprop aircraft designed for low-threat environments, is used to conduct advanced flight training, aerial reconnaissance and light air support operations.

by Lachlan Carmichael © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Mar 23, 2012