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We’re doing what, now? Buying our warplanes from Brazil?

April 23, 2011

Not quite, but:

The awarding of the air tanker contract to Boeing over European rival EADS has been making headlines lately, with the promise of thousands of jobs for U.S. workers and suppliers. There may be additional heartening employment news in the same sector, following a request by the U.S. Air Force to identify suppliers for a new kind of airplane that can perform the light attack and armed reconnaissance (LAAR) missions that are being requested by our military leaders.

The new aircraft’s purpose is to allow our U.S. pilots to more effectively execute the tactics, maneuvers and procedures that are needed for the type of counter insurgency warfare that we are currently seeing in Afghanistan and other conflict zones around the globe. In turn, these American pilots will train their partners and developing nation counterparts to fly these same planes and defend themselves, with a goal of reducing the need for U.S. military presence in the region.

Two companies are vying for the Air Force contract-Hawker Beechcraft, a Kansas-based company, and Embraer, a Brazilian owned and operated company.

Now: watch the funny blogger go round and round and round.

I’m a free market guy. I believe that open trade makes things better for everybody. The public relations problem with that being: “Hawker Beechcraft currently estimates that its proposal will create over 1,400 U.S. jobs in 18 states while Embraer’s proposal will create only 50 U.S. jobs.”

You can’t tell some unemployed guy in Kansas that he’s better off because we’re doing business in Brazil, even if it’s theoretically true. Politically, buying planes from Brazil falls somewhere around cleaning your ears with a power drill.

Free market aside, there are some things you simply don’t outsource. Mike Huckabee used to talk about the “three Fs:” for a nation to be healthy, it has to feed, fuel, and fight for itself. That means we produce the things we need without outside help.

On the other hand, I dunno: how much of our military equipment do we buy overseas? Anything? Computer chips? Boots? Is this somehow unprecedented?

Plus, it’s not like we’re hiring Brazil to build our aircraft carriers, or our M1s. This seems a minor bit of our overall military capability. And: what about international relations? Brazil is a large country, with a big economy. Seems to me we could use a close ally on that continent.

Not to mention:

How can you say no to that?

All that aside, though: this sits wrong. Major military purchases from another country? It’s just a little bit too much sauerkraut on your banana split, you know? It’s a teaspoon of sand in your swimsuit. And let’s not forget: Brazil swiped the Olympics from us.

So. What. Am I making a decision emotionally instead of rationally? Dunno. And that’s really the sticking point: I don’t know. I don’t know what the best military decision is.

That’s what I want. The best military decision. Weighing the finances, the needs, the potential future conflicts. Leave the politics out; leave the economics out, even. Just the military.

Yeah, I know, that’s not possible. Neither is me getting a call from the Packers on draft day. But I want that, too.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

5 Comments
  1. April 24, 2011 5:01 pm

    No, you’re right.

    If we’re in a shooting war, kinetic military action, or euphemism-of-the-month-with-explosions, we cannot have our resupply threatened by political or other considerations or because Brazil wants to court China suddenly.

  2. April 26, 2011 9:22 am

    I’m pretty sure that, like all military contracts, it will involve Embraer setting up a plant in the US.

    Like Beretta did to build our pistols.
    And Fabrique Nationale Herstal did to build our rifles and machine guns.

    Look, our machine guns are Belgian, our pistols are Italian, our tank guns are licensed from a German company and the Marines’ current CAS V/STOL is licensed from the Brits.

    Don’t worry about the Brazilians.

  3. April 26, 2011 9:47 am

    “Don’t worry about the Brazilians.”

    But what if my wife catches me staring at them?

  4. Ron permalink
    April 27, 2011 7:30 pm

    Tam is right – it would be made on a line in the US. Same as the Beechcraft, which is based on a plane from Pilatus of Switzerland.

    But realistically there’s almost no chance of the Embraer plane getting the contract due to logistical and price structures. Boeing won the tanker contract because the total cost was lower – despite the airframe being smaller and therefore capable of carrying less fuel. The Beechcraft is already in use as a trainer by the USAF *and* USN. This installed base means that parts, training, etc. for the Tucano would almost have to be higher.

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