Panetta pushes Brazil to buy Boeing fighter jets

“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. “We have put forward a very strong offer. It is an offer that reflects how important this partnership is to the United States.”

Boeing is in competition to sell 36 Super Hornets with France’s Dassault and Sweden’s Saab.

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Panetta’s push for Brazil to choose Boeing comes as Brazilian aerospace company Embraer is engaged in a contentious contract dispute with the Pentagon.

Embraer was awarded a $355 million contract, partnered with Sierra Nevada Corp., to build 20 Super Tucano light attack aircraft for the Afghanistan army.

But Embraer’s competitor Hawker Beechcraft sued in federal court after it was disqualified from the competition, and the Pentagon in February canceled the contract due to its own documentation problems.

The issue has been a sore spot for the Brazilian company, which is trying to break into the U.S. defense market, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff lobbied President Obama on the issue during a White House visit earlier this month.

The Pentagon restarted the competition for the Light Air Support Contract and said an award would not likely come until 2013.

Brazil’s Defense Minister Celso Amorim said at a press conference with Panetta on Tuesday that Brazil was “sad” Embraer’s contract had been canceled.

“Naturally, I cannot say that the entire relationship is going to depend on this particular example,” he said.