Brazilian officials said the deal, one of the most coveted emerging-market defense contracts, went to Saab because it provided the most affordable option for the new jets, as well as the best conditions for technology transfer to local partners.
The choice, Defense Minister Celso Amorim said, "took into account performance, the effective transfer of technology and costs - not just of acquisition but of maintenance."
Until earlier this year, Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet had been considered the front runner. But revelations of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency in Brazil, including personal communication by Rousseff, led Brazil to believe it could not trust a U.S. company.
"The NSA problem ruined it for the Americans," a Brazilian government source said on condition of anonymity.