| RIO DE JANEIRO, March 1
RIO DE JANEIRO, March 1 The United States
is still interested in acquiring a military airplane from
Brazil's Embraer despite cancelling a contract earlier this week
due to problems with its documents, a senior U.S. diplomat said
The U.S. Air Force abruptly cancelled on Tuesday a $355
million contract for 20 Super Tucanos, plus related electronics
and service from Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corp, a
closely held, Nevada-based company.
The light, ground-attack aircraft was sought to provide
close air support for the Afghan Army in the field and as a
turbo-prop training plane for Afghan Air Force pilots. With
future orders, the contract is believed to be worth as much as
The U.S. Air Force blamed "faulty paperwork" for the
cancellation of the contract, which is also being challenged in
U.S. Federal court by the losing bidder, Hawker Beechcraft
"Embraer is obviously a great company and the Super Tucano
is a very fine aircraft," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William
J. Burns said at an event in Rio de Janeiro. "The United States
is now in the midst of some internal processes but we remain
Neither the Air Force nor Burns would elaborate on the
The cancellation comes as Burns and other U.S. diplomats
seek to sell U.S. fighter aircraft to Brazil. Boeing Co's
F-18 "Super Hornet" fighter is in competition with Dassault's
Rafale and Saab's JAS-39 "Gripen" for an
order for 36 jets for Brazil's Air Force.
Reuters reported on Feb. 12, citing unnamed government
sources, that Brazil is "very likely" to choose Dassault in the
bid. The cancellation of the Embraer deal caused some senior
figures within President Dilma Rousseff's administration to
wonder if it was retaliation for Boeing reportedly falling out
of favor, officials told Reuters this week.
Burns appeared eager to put such concerns to rest. "These
are separate contracts," he said.
"We're convinced that the F-18 is the best of the available
aircraft and a reflection of that is that it is the aircraft
that the United States is going to be using for the next 20 to
30 years," Burns said.
As part of the agreement Boeing will provide the technology
for Brazil to build much of the aircraft on its own, a key
factor for Brazilian politicians looking to boost their aircraft
industry and defense capabilities.
"We're convinced that the technology transfer package that
we're offering along with that aircraft (F-18) is unprecedented
in our relationship (with Brazil)" he said. "It is exactly the
same kind of package that we offer to our closest NATO
NATO members include Britain, Canada, France and Germany.
The U.S. Air Force chief of staff, General Norton Schwartz,
acknowledged earlier this week that the cancellation of the
Super Tucano contract was an embarrassment for the Air Force,
which has struggled with acquisition problems over the last
decade. Schwartz said "there would be hell to pay" if the
documentation problem was not an innocent mistake.
The United States, which has soldiers in Afghanistan along
with other Nato nations, is handling the procurement agreement
for the Afghan Air Force.
The cancellation of the Super Tucano contract is one of
several Embraer has faced involving the United States over the
last 20 years. In the 1990s, the Super Tucano and Embraer in
partnership with U.S.-based Northrop Grumman lost out as
the joint fighter training aircraft for Nato after heavy
lobbying from U.S. competitors.
While the Super Tucano is driven by a propeller, that prop
is driven by a gasoline turbine rather than pistons driven by an
internal combustion engine. As a result, its performance is
similar to that of a jet aircraft and is considered a good
trainer for jet pilots.
Embraer sells about two-thirds of its aircraft, including
regional passenger jets and executive aircraft, in the United
States and gets about two-thirds of its engines and other parts
from U.S. suppliers, Burns said.