Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Report: Lula Approved Fighter Plane Sale to Blackwater

One of Brazil's leading newspapers is reporting that President Inacio "Lula" da Silva personally approved the sale of an Embraer fighter plane to Blackwater Worldwide.

The article in O Estado de Sao Paulo says that the Embraer Super Tucano 314-B1 fighter (pictured), popular in the Brazilian military, was sold to a Blackwater subsidiary for $4.5 million. According to AP, the plane is intended for training purposes in the United States. The Blackwater aircraft does not sport the standard-issue .50 caliber machineguns on the wings.

Blackwater has sought the inexpensive, propeller-driven fighter plane as an innovation in counterinsurgency training. The plane lacks most of the capabilities of jet fighters, but it's cheap and easy to maintain, and is just right for attacking insurgents, company experts have said. Colombia uses the plane effectively to battle FARC guerrillas and related drug smugglers.

Reuters reports that Blackwater has confirmed the successful purchase of the plane. Some of the news reports do not say that President da Silva personally approved the sale, but rather that he is likely to have approved it. The sale came after consultations with the US government.

In a separate move, the US government itself is looking to buy eight of the Embraer Super Tucanos for use in Iraq, Forbes reports, highlighting the effectiveness of the craft for this sort of work.

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