(In APRIL 27 story, corrects paragraphs 3 and 4 to make clear Saab spokesman was commenting on whether it could remove UK content, and adds engineering impact)
LINKOPING, Sweden, April 27 (Reuters) - Sweden’s Saab AB on Monday ruled out facilitating the sale of Gripen fighter aircraft to Argentina as the result of a deal to build and export combat jets from Brazil.
Argentina has expressed interest in buying 24 Gripen fighter jets from its Latin American neighbour once Brazil is able to export them, early next decade.
Such a deal would face an almost certain veto from Britain, which provides some 30 percent of the Gripen’s content, including the radar on its next-generation Gripen E/F.
Saab said it was not involved in any discussions involving the removal of UK content from the Gripen, a step considered unavoidable before the jet could be exported to Argentina.
“Nobody has asked us to do that and we are not considering it,” a spokesman said during a defence media briefing, asked whether Saab could remove UK-supplied systems, which would involve extensive engineering changes in the aircraft.
Relations between Britain and Argentina remain tense since a war 33 years ago over the Falkland Islands, known as Las Malvinas in Argentina.
Late last year, Brazilian defence officials forecast more demand for Saab Gripen aircraft, including from Argentina.
Saab has sold 60 Gripen Es to Sweden and is finalizing an order for another 36 to Brazil, which will also co-develop a two-seat version Saab calls Gripen F and Brazilian officials call Gripen NG.
Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer SA has said it hopes to devise a plan with Saab by June to export the Gripen from Brazil beginning in 2023.
Saab officials said the first Gripen export from Brazil could come as early as 2022.
The head of Saab’s aeronautics division, Ulf Nilsson, said the development programme for the Gripen E was on track, but he declined to outline details of the production ramp-up.
Saab also said it was confident about plans with Boeing Co to try to sell newly designed T-X training jets to the United States. But in a series of detailed briefings, Saab officials declined to discuss anything about the aircraft design, which remains strictly under wraps.
The pair are expected to face competition from Northrop Grumman Corp, a team of Lockheed Martin Corp and Korea Aerospace Industries, and an alliance between General Dynamics Corp and Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, a unit of Finmeccanica SpA.
As with the Brazilian fighter deal, Saab is looking at potential exports if it wins the trainer competition.
“When we looked into this, of course we wanted a global market for trainers. I think it is a great market out there,” deputy chief executive Lennart Sindahl said. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Brad Haynes and Andre Grenon)