(Corrects aircraft to F-16 from F-35 in paragraph 4)
BRASILIA, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Brazil’s air force said on Wednesday it chose U.S.-based Boeing Co (BA.N), France’s Dassault (AVMD.PA) and Saab (SAABb.ST) of Sweden as finalists in a tender for 36 fighter jets as part of a fleet renewal.
The air force wants a next-generation, multi-role fighter jet to replace its entire fleet over the next 15 years. That could eventually increase the size of the order to more than 100 aircraft.
Six manufacturers participated in the tender, but only Boeing’s F-18 E/F SUPER HORNET, Dassault’s RAFALE, and SAAB’s GRIPEN made the cut for the next phase of the bidding process, the air force said in a statement.
The fighter jets that were excluded from the tender were Lockheed Martin’s (LMT.N) F-16, Eurofighter’s Typhoon, and the Russian Sukhoi SU-35, which neighboring Venezuela bought recently.
Brazil wants a generous technology transfer package, possibly including local assembly, to help develop its own defense industry and perform maintenance of the aircraft.
Latin America’s largest country is expected to sign in December a strategic defense alliance with France, including the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine in Brazil.
The U.S. government, which would buy the aircraft from Boeing and sell them to the Brazilian government, has the last word on technology transfer.
But Boeing suggested on Wednesday that the U.S. administration could take a flexible approach on restrictions.
“This selection reinforces the Super Hornet’s ability to meet the operational requirements of the Brazilian Air Force and the forward-leaning stance of the U.S. government regarding transparency and technology release,” Bob Gower, F/A-18 and EA-18 Programs vice president with Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, said in a statement.
Boeing expects the Brazilian air force to decide on the contract late next year. The tender calls for the first aircraft to be delivered in 2014. (Additional reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo) (Reporting by Raymond Colitt; Editing by Todd Benson and Patrick Markey)