By Jim Wolf and Brad Haynes
WASHINGTON/SAO PAULO Feb 27 Brazil's Embraer SA
won a U.S. Air Force deal on Wednesday to supply 20
light attack planes for counterinsurgency missions in
Afghanistan, tightening U.S.-Brazilian defense ties after a
politically charged bidding process.
Embraer and its privately held partner, Sierra Nevada, beat
out U.S.-based Hawker Beechcraft for the $428 million deal, the
Brazilian planemaker's first with the U.S. armed forces.
With the "seal of quality" from the world's biggest defense
spender, the head of Embraer's defense unit Carlos Aguiar said
he anticipated more demand for the single-engine turboprop Super
Tucano from potential clients in the Middle East and Southeast
"We know other countries were waiting for the result,"
Aguiar said in a telephone interview. "With the United States
itself, as we show we can deliver on the contract, this order
can definitely grow and there will be other needs we can meet."
The contract was also good news for Chicago-based Boeing Co
, which is bidding to overhaul Brazil's Air Force with
more than 36 new fighter jets worth at least $4 billion, in a
closely watched race against France's Dassault Aviation
and Sweden's Saab.
"This is obviously a very good development for Boeing. It's
the best thing that's happened to them in months (in the fighter
jet race)," said a senior Brazilian official on condition of
anonymity. The official did not elaborate.
Brazilian officials had expressed dismay last year, when the
U.S. scrapped the Afghan contract originally awarded to Embraer
in December 2011. Hawker challenged that process in court and
political fallout from the Kansas-based company losing out to a
Brazilian one seeped into the U.S. presidential campaign.
After Embraer clinched the rebid on Wednesday, U.S. Deputy
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called Brazil's Defense Minister
Celso Amorim to congratulate him on the results.
Amorim called it a "big victory" for Brazilian industry that
will open new business opportunities for Embraer, according to a
statement from the ministry.
For Hawker, which emerged from a Chapter 11 restructuring
this month, the lost contract is another setback on the road to
"We will meet with the (U.S. Air Force) for a full debrief
of the award and determine our next steps forward at that time,"
Nicole Alexander, a company spokeswoman, said in an emailed