Bolsonaro rolls out Saab fighter jet, says it gives Brazil air superiority

BRASILIA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The Brazilian Air Force on Friday unveiled the first of 36 Gripen fighter jets bought from Sweden’s Saab AB in a $4 billion deal that includes the assembly of planes in Brazil.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro sprayed champagne on the nose of the first Gripen to arrive in Brazil and them climbed into the cockpit at Brasilia’s air force base.

Bolsonaro said the Gripen’s arrival and the entry into service this year of the KC-390 military transport jet made by Embraer SA were historic landmarks that established Brazil’s air superiority needed to defend the vast South American nation.

Brazil signed the contract to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets with the fifth-generation Saab in 2014, after deciding against Boeing Co.’s F-18 Super Hornet and the Rafale made by France’s Dassault Aviation SA.

The first Saab Gripen fighter made for Brazil, denominated the F-39E, was brought to the country by ship last month to continue test flights begun in Sweden in August.

Saab will build 13 of the Gripens in Sweden and the next eight will be partially assembled in Brazil by Embraer’s defense division.

The final 15 fighters will be totally assembled in Brazil in a transfer of technology agreed to by Saab, Embraer said.

The Brazilian Air Force expects to receive the first operational fighters at the end of next year. (Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)