Saab Brazil Gripen NG
Sweden's Saab is to supply 36 Gripen NG fighter jets to BrazilReuters

The National Security Agency scandal directly affected a Brazilian government decision to award a multibillion-dollar defence contract to Sweden's Saab over US company Boeing, analysts have said.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff awarded Saab the $4.5bn (£2.7bn) contract for 36 Gripen NG fighter jets for its its Air Force.

"Dilma had been favouring the Boeing plane and a lot of people thought she would announce her decision during her state visit to Washington," said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. "Boeing was very close, but then the NSA booted them out of the air."

Rousseff's visit was cancelled, after leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged that the US spied on Brazilian officials, including her and state-run oil company Petrobras.

The revelation made it politically impossible for Rousseff to go with Boeing, said Carl Meacham, director of the Americas programme at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Brazilian defence minister Celso Amorim said Saab was chosen "careful study and consideration, taking into account performance, transfer of technology and cost, not just of acquisition but of maintenance".

Saab's Gripen NG beat Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet and France's Dassault Rafale.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted:

Other commentators said that Brazil's decision was made before the NSA scandal erupted and had its roots in American geopolitics.

"The Americans tend to think that if you buy arms from them you are automatically their allies," Alexandre Barros, a political risk consultant with the Brasilia-based firm Early Warning, said.

"Brazil doesn't want that kind of link."