Armor: Brazil

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January 6, 2021: In late 2020 the Philippines ordered 28 VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 wheeled APCs (armored personnel carriers) from Brazil. These cost $47 million. The supplier is actually Israel, which is obtaining them from Brazil and equipping them with Israeli electronics. These include a battle management system that is compatible with the one installed in 28 Israeli light tanks that are part of the same contract. The Israeli manufacturer of the electronics, Elbit, also supplies the electronics for the Brazilian VBTP-MR APC via an Elbit subsidiary in Brazil. Exporting high-tech weapons has become common in Brazil during the last two decades. Brazil already had the industrial infrastructure and knew how to partner with more experienced arms manufacturing nations, like Israel and European nations, to obtain the needed tech to produce the most modern gear.

Brazil is the second largest nation in the Americas, after the United States and also the second in GDP with the second largest weapons manufacturing industry. Brazilian defense manufacturers exist because Brazil also has the second largest military in the Americas and that gave local firms an advantage over foreign suppliers. The Brazilian defense firms pay attention to what Brazilian forces need and often find a way to do it that is competitive with foreign suppliers and actually capable of competing with major arms exporters. That means few political restrictions on who they sell to as long as it brings more good jobs to Brazil.

This process began in the 1980s and has grown to the point where Brazil has become a major manufacturer in some categories like armed trainer aircraft and, lately, wheeled armored vehicles. Two of the more recent vehicle designs, the LMV and VBTP-MR Guarani are good examples of how Brazil has come so far so fast in this area. These two vehicles were made with technology licensed from Iveco, a major Italian manufacturer. European defense firms have been doing this longer and successfully against the two majors; the United States and Russia, which together dominate the top end and bottom end of the export market. The European firms have competitive (to the U.S.) tech and are more willing to make all sorts of deals. Besides, in Brazil it’s considered more fashionable, and patriotic, to do business with the Europeans rather than “the Colossus of the North.” Brazil can export these vehicles because, although they use licensed tech, they are manufactured in Brazil and the licensing agreements European firms offer are much more flexible than what U.S. companies will tolerate.

After 2000 Brazil found Iveco had the combat vehicle technology they were looking for and was willing to build in Brazil and allow Brazil to export the locally made vehicles. This was big business for Iveco, with two vehicles alone generating nearly $20 billion in business. The first deal with Iveco involved a replacement for older Brazilian armored vehicles. These were the EE-9 Cascavel and EE-11 Urutu, both wheeled APCs developed in the 1970s. The Iveco candidate to replace the EE-9 was a 17-ton 6x6 version of their 32-ton 8x8 SuperAV. The SuperAV was also one of the two finalists to replace the U.S. Marine Corps AAV7 amphibious vehicle. Brazil required a smaller vehicle and developed the 6x6 VBTP-MR Guarani. The first of these began arriving in 2012 and the Brazilian military in the process of buying about 2,000 of them by the 2030s. There are already export customers, the first two being Argentina and Lebanon.

The 17-ton VBTP-MR is similar to the latest version of the American Stryker. The VBTP-MR has a V shaped hull and lots of composite armor and internal features to protect vehicle and passengers against mines and roadside bombs. The vehicle is also amphibious and can use a variety of turret mounted weapons including a RWS (Remote Weapons System) armed with autocannon, automatic grenade launcher or missiles. There are turretless versions for ambulances and other support roles as well as models armed with 120mm mortar or 105mm cannon. The most common version is the APC with a crew of two, nine passengers and an RWS with 30mm autocannon plus a 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine-gun. The Filipino version will be armed with a 12.7mm machine-gun and 40mm automatic grenade launcher. Top speed is 110 kilometers an hour and road range on internal fuel is 600 kilometers.

With the VBTP-MR already underway Brazil began looking for something similar to the American armored hummer (and similar vehicles) for its army. After holding a competition in 2016 the Italian LMV (Light Multipurpose Vehicles) M65 "Lynx" was selected. This would replace the EE-11 and several other light armored vehicles. Brazil eventually wants 1,674 LMVs but the initial order is for 186 so the vehicle can be tried out by troops in the many different climates and terrain types found in Brazil. Ultimately 23 percent of the LMVs will be armed with an Israeli RWS while the rest will have an armored manned turret equipped with a machine-gun.

 


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