Brazilian Defense Manufacturer Embraer Continues Close Ties with Iran

In coming weeks, the United States Air Force must decide which of two competing companies will produce America’s newest Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) and Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft.


In one corner stands American manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft.  In the other corner stands Embraer, which is subsidized and effectively controlled by the Federative Republic of Brazil.  Despite early indications that the decision would occur months ago, we continue to await a definitive answer.

While it’s important to expand America’s international trade relationships, and we disfavor protectionism generally, needlessly outsourcing valuable defense-related jobs to Brazil makes no logical sense in today’s economy.  That perspective becomes even more obvious when the American company in question can produce a quality aircraft, while creating more American jobs at the roughly the same cost per plane.  If Hawker Beechcraft is awarded this contract, it is estimated that 1,400 American jobs will be created and sustained in 18 states.  In contrast, Embraer’s proposal will create just 50 final assembly positions in Florida.  Additionally, Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 is based upon an aircraft already in wide use, which is particularly critical at a time of necessary cost reductions.

Even more alarming, should the contract be awarded to Embraer, the U.S. government would be purchasing military aircraft from a country that maintains close ties with violent adversaries, most notably the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Brazil has enjoyed a disturbing history with Iran dating to the 1980s, and Brazil’s loyalty and relationship has remained ominously close to Iran.


According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “In 1989, Brazil chose to sell Tucanos, Embraer’s relatively low cost and basic military aircraft, to Iran.”  Currently, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force operates around 40 Embraer T-27 Tucanos, according to the Washington Institute.  In fact, the Iranians use the Tucano as their primary close air support aircraft.

In recent years, Brazil has continued its troubling friendship with Iran and ruthless leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The Hudson Institute notes that, “Another area of tension between Brazil and the United States relates to Iran.  In November 2009, President da Silva invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil. In May 2010, da Silva helped broker a deal in which Iran would ship only a portion of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey for reprocessing; the rest would remain in Iranian hands, where it could be further enriched for nuclear weapon production.”

That willingness to set ethics aside for the betterment of their bottom line illustrates the danger in the US purchasing military aircraft from Brazil.

The matter becomes even more troublesome as news trickles out about the recent Iran-lead assassination attempts on Saudi/US officials on American soil. Even more recently, details have emerged implicating Iran as the mastermind of an illegal plot to smuggle electronic components used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) out of the US through Iran for US on our troops in Iraq.


Additionally, an unusual clause in Embraer’s company bylaws known as the “Golden Share” provides the Brazilian government enormous operational powers that could pose a threat to American security.  According to Embraer’s website, that Golden Share provision empowers the Brazilian government with veto rights over: “Creation and/or alteration of military programs, whether or not involving the Federative Republic of Brazil;” “Development of third parties´ skills in technology for military programs;” and “Interruption of the supply of maintenance and replacement parts for military aircraft,” among other things. That is dangerous and unacceptable.  Indeed, trusting that the Brazilian government will not exercise its veto rights would be a very naïve decision, particularly given Brazil’s behavior in the war on terror.

As America’s leaders decide how best to get this economy back on track and grow jobs, the Department of Defense can provide immediate help.  Rather than award the contract in question to Embraer, a company partially controlled by a foreign government whose interests often oppose the United States, it should instead select Hawker Beechcraft, a trusted American company that will create and sustain over 1400 American jobs.

Timothy H. Lee is Vice-President of Legal and Public Affairs for the Center for Individual Freedom, an Alexandria, Virginia-based nonprofit organization established in 1998 to protect Constitutional rights, promote free market principles, and advance international liberty.  Prior to joining CFIF in 2006, Mr. Lee practiced labor & employment law and commercial litigation at law firms in the Los Angeles, California and Phoenix, Arizona areas.  Mr. Lee received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Arizona State University, where he graduated summa cum laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.  Mr. Lee subsequently received his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Southern California, where he was selected from the top ten percent of his class to serve as a member of the Southern California Law Review.  He has made numerous radio and television appearances, both national and international, and participates frequently in live discussion panels on a wide variety of legal and political topics across the country.



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