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Private Security Firm Purchases Brazilian Turboprop Fighter

US May Purchase Eight Planes For Use In Iraq

The Associated Press cites a Brazilian newspaper in reporting that EP Aviation, a subsidiary of controversial US military security contractor Blackwater Worldwide, has purchased a fighter plane from Embraer.

The 314-B1 Super Tucano propeller-driven fighter is the same one used by the Brazilian military, but was reportedly delivered without the wing-mounted, .50-caliber machine guns which are normally standard equipment.

The price, according to the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, was $4.5 million. Delivery reportedly took place at the end of February.

The FAA website confirmed the plane's N-number is registered to EP Aviation. EP Aviation says it has 33 planes and helicopters registered with the FAA, but only one from Embraer. This may be Embraer's first sale of a military aircraft to a private company.

Brazilian law prohibits the sale of arms to companies or for use in existing conflicts, but the paper reported this deal was approved by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after discussions with the US government.

It may also be the first of what could be several orders. On Monday, Luiz Carlos Siqueira Aguiar -- Embraer's VP for government market sales -- said US officials may purchase as many as eight Super Tucanos, for use in Iraq.

US support for the sale will add to the controversy surrounding Blackwater. The world's largest private security company is already under investigation by a US federal grand jury for its involvement in the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians, and may face weapons-smuggling charges, which it has already denied.

FMI: www.blackwaterusa.com, www.embraer.com

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