Russia bids to supply Brazil’s Air Force

Just a quick post to highlight an RIA Novosti article about Russia’s attempts to win a tender to supply the Brazilian Air Force with modern fighter jets.

The Brazilian Air Force has a combat capacity way below the country’s economic potential, especially considering how hard it is working to enhance its global political role.

It seems like a lot of South American countries are militarily underpowered compared to their GDP.  Really, that’s a good thing – underpowered but well matched militaries should equal reduced chance of serious conflict.  

But for the arms industry, and particularly the Russian arms industry, this also represents a massive opportunity. It will be interesting to see how this tender develops. 

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2 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    The SU-35 is a beautiful plane, and it did quite well in trials. It’s also quite a good value for the money – few realize that Russian aircraft have broken or set records throughout modern aviation history, and are not necessarily lumbering clunkers made of old soft-drink signs with protruding, hacked-off rivets.

    Most serious manufacturers who rely heavily on foreign sales at the same time they are a national government supplier produce an “export version” of their most successful designs. The resulting airframe might be missing a good deal of the fancier gadgets, although it generally looks almost identical. A Brazilian SU-35 would likely be missing some of its most advanced avionics or have a less-capable version if the parent system were Secret. The USA does this as well, selling aircraft with a radar – for example – that is a generation behind the one fitted in their own versions.

    The real money, though, is in the maintenance/support contract. Brazil couldn’t have bought parts – for example, for its Mirages – from Russia or the USA, and their first pilots likely went to France for training. The USA did the same for their F-14 Tomcat contract with Iran. The initial buy of planes is fairly expensive, but that’s the sexy part announced in all the papers. What the public usually doesn’t see is the spare parts, replacement engines, training program for both pilots and ground support crews, ammunition and armaments that follow after and make you dependent on your supplier. That often runs into several times the cost of the planes unless the buyer has the technical skill to reverse-engineer the parts themselves (as Iran did, at enormous expense).

  2. Andy says:

    Absolutely – and I’d wager that spare parts and maintenance for Russian planes are a good deal cheaper than spare parts and maintenance for US or French planes.

    An added bonus for many smaller and poorer countries is that the former Soviet Union has a large pool of trained freelance pilots (less tactfully known as mercenaries) who will fly the planes for you at a reasonable cost, thus eliminating the need to train your own pilots.