US defense chief urges Brazil to buy fighter jets

April 25, 2012 16:11

RIO DE JANEIRO - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a full-throated pitch for Brazil to buy American fighter jets in a speech on Wednesday and said defense trade between the hemisphere's two largest economies was "an area ripe for growth."

US-based Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet is seen as an underdog in a Brazilian competition for a contract with an initial value of about $4 billion. It will likely be worth considerably more over time once maintenance and follow-on orders are included.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has cast the deal as a watershed decision that will help mold Brazil's military and strategic alliances for the next few decades as it establishes itself as a leading economic power.

"This offer, which has the strong support of the United States Congress, contains an unprecedented advanced technology sharing that is reserved for only our closest allies and partners," Panetta said in prepared remarks to Brazil's Superior War College in Rio de Janeiro.

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