Brazil eyes to buy F-16s over doubling its Gripen E/F fleet

Following Argentina’s recent deal to buy used F-16 fighters, Brazil is also talking to the U.S. about getting some Fighting Falcons. In June, a top Brazilian official told Janes that the Brazilian Air Force [FAB] is in talks with the U.S. to buy possibly 24 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons. 

Dutch F-16s will break the sound barrier with control flights
Photo by Ronnie Macdonald

These discussions are still early, but the official said the FAB hopes to decide soon, maybe by the end of 2024. While hasn’t confirmed this, it fits with the Brazilian Air Force’s plan to replace its old fighter jets. 

This is surprising news since Brazil’s 2014 deal with Swedish company Saab for 36 Gripen E/F fighters, worth $5.04 billion, expects delivery by 2027. That contract was expanded in 2022 to add four more jets, making it a total of 40.

Brazil's JAS 39 Gripen receives multi-domain MANET datalinks
Photo credit: SAAB

In 2014, Saab won a big contract to supply 36 Gripen E/F aircraft. They beat tough competition from Dassault Rafale, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Interestingly, the F-16 was not considered. Recently, the country hinted at expanding its Gripen fleet. 

Defense Minister José Múcio spoke at the LAAD Defense and Security event in Rio de Janeiro. He said, “The Brazilian Air Force said it needs more Gripen fighters. We are looking at this and studying it.” 

Despite plans to buy more Saab Gripen E/Fs, the Brazilian Air Force [FAB] is looking for cheaper ways to replace its aging fighter jets. Originally, they wanted to nearly double their Gripen purchase to replace the old Mirage and AMX jets. However, economic constraints are making them reconsider. 

Revival: Poland's ambitious mid-life overhaul for 48 F-16 fighters
Photo credit: Reddit

With the AMX fleet set to retire by the end of 2025 and not enough Gripens to fill the gap, the FAB is now looking at cheaper alternatives.

In the early 2000s, Brazil tried to buy a batch of F-16s from the United States, but the deal didn’t go through. In 2002, the U.S. offered to sell Brazil F-16 Fighting Falcons, including advanced air-to-air missiles. This was the first offer of its kind to a Latin American country. 

Brazilian officials received a proposal from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. It included advanced F-16s and related weaponry, like the AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles. 

JAS-39 Gripen soars in Asia taking advantage of Philippine edge
Photo credit: SAAB

At that time, the Pentagon’s policy was to prevent the introduction of advanced technology into a region, fearing it could disrupt the military balance and start an arms race. However, an unnamed official said the U.S. made the offer because Peru had acquired Russian AMRAAMs.

Brazil wanted to update its old Mirage III jets and looked into buying 12 to 24 new fighter planes. They considered a few options and narrowed it down to three: Dassault’s Rafale, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, and Saab’s Gripen NG. They decided not to go with the F-16. 

However, talk about buying second-hand F-16s has come up again. Even though these older F-16 models don’t have the advanced features of the Gripen-E/F, the F-16 is still a proven fighter jet, known for its flexibility and wide use around the world.

Sweden improving JAS 39 Gripen C/D's capabilities with a new update
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Gripen E/F incorporates advanced avionics and sensor fusion technology, which allows for superior situational awareness and data processing capabilities compared to older F-16 models. This integration enables pilots to make more informed decisions in real-time combat scenarios.

One of the standout features of the Gripen E/F is its state-of-the-art electronic warfare [EW] suite. This system provides enhanced threat detection and countermeasure capabilities, making it more adept at evading enemy radar and missile systems than the older F-16 variants.

The Gripen E/F is equipped with an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array [AESA] radar, which offers greater range, better target tracking, and improved resistance to jamming. This radar technology is a significant upgrade over the mechanically scanned radar systems found in many older F-16 models.

Poland has sent F-16C/Ds against a Russian 'violator' missile
Photo by Gerard van der Schaaf / Wkimedia

Another key advantage of the Gripen E/F is its superior fuel efficiency and extended range. The aircraft is designed with a more efficient engine and aerodynamics, allowing it to operate longer and cover greater distances without the need for refueling, which is a notable improvement over older F-16 designs.

The Gripen E/F features a modern cockpit with a fully digital interface, providing pilots with a more intuitive and user-friendly environment. This includes advanced touchscreen displays and a helmet-mounted display system, which enhance pilot situational awareness and reduce workload compared to the analog and less integrated systems of older F-16 models.

The Gripen E/F boasts an open architecture design, which allows for easier upgrades and integration of new technologies. This modularity ensures that the aircraft can be continuously updated with the latest advancements in avionics, weapons systems, and software, maintaining its edge over the more rigid and less adaptable older F-16 models.


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