Aerospace & Defense News - Defense Latin America / Caribbean.

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New York, Delray Beach (AirGuideBusiness - Aerospace & Defense News - Defense Latin America / Caribbean) Jan 22, 2012

Embraer Brazil's Embraer eyes NATO buyers for Super Tucano. Brazil's Embraer expects to sell its Super Tucano light attack aircraft to more NATO nations after clinching an order from the United States that lifted the company into the upper echelons of global defense contractors, a top executive told Reuters. "When you're selling to the most demanding client on the planet ... that's a showcase," Luiz Carlos Aguiar, the head of Embraer's Defense and Security unit, said in an interview. "It naturally opens the door to the NATO countries, which have many joint operations." Just weeks after winning its first U.S. government contract, Aguiar said Embraer is also eyeing at least three other projects for the U.S. armed forces, undeterred by the political firestorm surrounding an American rival's legal challenge. Buoyed by the U.S. endorsement, Embraer's defense unit could make up a quarter of its revenue by 2020, Aguiar said, up from an estimated 14 percent last year and under 5 percent in 2006. The unit promises steady growth with Brazil's armed forces as the country bolsters protection of its vast borders and far-flung offshore oil reserves, reducing Embraer's reliance on highly cyclical revenue from civil aviation. But as Embraer's defense ambitions grow in foreign countries, it also faces more politically charged competition. The U.S. Air Force halted the USD355 million Super Tucano order last week due to a lawsuit from losing bidder Hawker-Beechcraft (:HKBCH.UL), of Kansas, stirring nationalist rhetoric from local lawmakers and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Aguiar dismissed the political risks, confident that a swift decision in courts will free up Embraer to deliver the Air Force's first Super Tucanos from a new Florida plant next year. "Our team is totally ready. No one was deactivated," said Aguiar. "You just press the button and we go to work." The order could grow to USD950 million for 55 aircraft, which are designed for surveillance and counterinsurgency operations in rugged conditions like the Afghanistan border. The U.S. contract is the first for the Super Tucano in the NATO alliance. An earlier generation of the plane, known as the Tucano, was used beginning in 1989 for pilot training in France and the United Kingdom. RETURN TO ROOTS Embraer's focus on defense is a return to its roots for the...

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