By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Brazil is pushing ahead with aplanned $1 billion purchase of anti-aircraft missile batteriesfrom Russia in a deal that will cement a strategic defensepartnership between the two BRICS nations, the Brazilian DefenseMinistry said on Wednesday.
Brazilian officials said they expect to sign a contract bythe middle of 2014 for short- to medium-range surface-to-airPantsir S1 missile batteries and Igla-S shoulder-held missiles.
In December, Brazil bought 12 Mi-35 attack helicopters - atype dubbed the 'flying tank' - in its first purchase fromRussia of military hardware. The rising Latin American power hastraditionally obtained its weapons from the United States andEurope.
Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, on a visit to Peruand Brazil to promote sales of Russian weaponry, also proposedin Brasilia the joint development of a fifth-generation fighterjet, defence officials said.
Brazil's Air Force has been looking for a decade to buy 36fourth-generation jets to replace its aging fighter fleet, butRussia's Sukhoi Su-35 is not currently in the running for thecontract worth more than $4 billion.
The selection process is already underway and will not bereopened, Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim said aftermeeting with Shoigu. Amorim said he hopes President DilmaRousseff will decide "soon" between Boeing Co.'s F-18Super Hornet, the Rafale made France's Dassault Aviation SA and the Gripen offered by Sweden's Saab AB.
Amorim told reporters Brazil was nevertheless interested indiscussing the development of a future jet fighter with newpartners.
"More than buying military equipment, what we are seekingwith Russia is a strategic partnership based on the jointdevelopment of technology," Amorim said.
The terms of the deal that was first proposed in Februaryduring a visit to Brazil by Russian Prime Minister DmitryMedvedev require Russia to transfer the technology to build theanti-aircraft batteries to Brazilian defense companies withoutrestriction.
Amorim said defense cooperation between the two members ofthe BRICS group of leading emerging nations, which also includesChina, India and South Africa, could "counterbalance" otheroptions that Brazil wants to keep open - a reference totraditional arms suppliers such as the United States.
Amorim said Russia and Brazil would also look at workingtogether on space technology and on defense against cyberattacks, an area that has become a Brazilian priority sincedisclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency has spied onBrazilians, their president and the country's largest oilcompany.
The purchase of anti-aircraft batteries is part of Brazil'seffort to beef up air defenses ahead of global sports events theSouth American nation is preparing to host. While the Russianmissiles will not be delivered in time for next year's soccerWorld Cup, they will be in place for the Olympic Games to beheld in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the defense ministry said.
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