Brazil Postpones Fighter Purchase to Buy Food
Brazil's new left wing government on Friday delayed the 760 million dollar purchase of new fighter jets until at least 2004 saying it wants to concentrate cash on battling poverty.
Defence Minister Jose Viegas said the government would consider leasing planes or buying second hand jets for the air force which needs to replace part of its aging fleet.
The new government under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office on Wednesday promising major social reforms. "The start of this new government will be marked by the fight against hunger and so it is necessary to concentrate our resources in this area," said Viegas after Lula's first cabinet meeting.
"The 760 millions dollars will not be immediately spent because buying plans means finding finance," he added.
Despite the blow, new air force chief Brigadier General Luiz Carlos Bueno said the decision had been "very well accepted" by the air force which knew such cuts were possible. "We are working with and not against the government," he said.
He said the air force had 18 Mirage jets which can be used until 2005.
Five consortia had answered the last Brazilian governments tender for 12 fighter bombers to replace some of the country's Mirages.
Two of the offers involved Brazilian firms, Embraer and Avibras, while Saab of Sweden and BAE of Britain had formed an alliance against Lockheed Martin of the United States and the Russian makers of the Mig fighter.
Embraer signed an alliance in 1999 with a group of French companies Aerospatiale-Matra, Dassault Aviation, Snecma and Thomson-CSF.
With acknowledgement to Sapa and BC-Brazil-Military-Air Brasilia.