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Foreign Fighter Contracts Not Materializing Soon

by: Matthew Potter
March 3, 2011

Category: BAE Systems, Boeing, Brazil, Business Line, Companies, Contract Additions, Contract Awards, Countries, D'Assault, development program, EADS, Events, France, India, Lockheed Martin, MiG, Military Aviation, production program, Restructuring, SAAB, Services, Sweden, UAE | RSS 2.0

The Western defense contractors face a shrinking market right now domestically for advanced combat aircraft. The U.S. and many of its Allies are committed to Lockheed Martin’s (LMT) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and that system will dominate their inventories for the next few decades. The U.S. ended production of the F-22 Raptor by Lockheed and Boeing (BA) and European nations have pretty much finished up ordering Eurofighter Typhoon’s with the United Kingdom even planning retiring some of their older aircraft due to budgetary pressures. France and Sweden have their own domestic aircraft in the Dassault Rafale and SAAB Gripen but have purchased as many of those as they really can.

All of these companies and countries have looked to overseas customers to sell these aircraft with the two biggest deals being for Brazil and India. Unfortunately these contract are not materializing in the near future and may now be pushed out a year or two.

India has planned major upgrades to its military through the purchase of advanced Western systems. This has included aircraft like C-130J transports from Lockheed and P-8I maritime patrol aircraft from Boeing (BA) but their cornerstone program was for over a hundred fighters. This contract has been going through the source selection with the competitors from the U.S., Europe and Russia demonstrating their aircraft and at one point was hoped to be awarded this summer. It is now being reported that this major contract won’t be decided until early in 2012.

Brazil has also been planning to expand and improve its military through some deals with overseas suppliers. They too would like to buy a new fighter and that contest has seemed to be between Boeing’s F/A-18 and the Rafale although SAAB bid as well. The original plan was to award this year but due to budget cuts the decision will now be postponed for at least twelve months. There are concerns that it may not happen at all as Brazil had to cut its defense spending significantly.

Finally Dassault had hoped that the U.A.E. might invest in the Rafale as well which so far has yet to find a foriegn buyer. The Emirates already operates French Mirage aircraft and the Rafale would be the logical extension of these. The big arms expo in the U.A.E., IDEX, came and went though without any announcement of a deal although a contract was awarded to upgrade Mirage aircraft worth about $30 million. Failure to win this contract would be a blow to France’s aggressive campaign to sell the fighter to new customers.

It had been hoped that these overseas sales would make up for the decline in U.S. and European defense spending and help keep production lines going and workers employed. Unfortunately they are not materializing as fast as hoped and this may affect different contractor’s plans. The Asian and South American markets were seen as key to keep the defense business going in the next several years. It may be that even these nations who were hoping to improve their military may not have the money necessarily to meet their original plans.

Photo from Jerry Gunner’s flickr photostream.

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  1. Dubai Air Show Disapoints So Far | Defense Procurement News on November 16th, 2011 3:27 am

    […] and Eurofighter considered top contenders but that has been talked about for many months. The same story was being discussed at last year’s show. The U.A.E. did discuss its plans for upgrading and improving its air […]

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