Armor: How Brazil Became Competitive

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June 17, 2017: In addition to being the largest (210 million people, nearly two trillion dollar GDP) nation in Latin America, Brazil has also developed the largest array of defense industries and has become a major manufacturer (over $60 billion a year), not only for its own armed forces but also for many export customers. Brazilian defense manufacturers always seemed to have customers, unlike those buying many other Brazilian goods. The defense firms pay attention to what Brazilian armed forces need and often find a way to do it in a way 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 and “campaign contributions” to key Brazilian politicians.

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 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 European manufacturer in Italy. The European defense firms have been at it a lot longer and already had experience dealing with 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.”

After 2000 Brazil found Iveco had the technology they were looking for and was willing to build in Brazil and allow Brazil to export the Brazilian 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 armored vehicles used by the Brazilian military. These were the EE-9 Cascavel and EE-11 Urutu, both wheeled APCs (armored personnel carrier) 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 is 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 will buy about 2,000 of them by the 2030s. There are already export customers. The VBTP-MR is similar to the latest version of the American Stryker. That is VBTP-MR has a V shaped hull and lots of composite armor and internal features to defend against mines and roadside bombs. It 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 numerous version is the APC with a crew of two, nine passengers and an RWS with 30mm autocannon plus a 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine-gun. 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.

The seven ton, 4x4 M65 is another design influenced by the success of American armored hummers and MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like the hummer, the LMV normally carries five people. The LMV can carry a RWS on the roof and there are variants with the rear of the vehicle used for cargo or equipment. The LMV is similar in size to the hummer (5.1 meters/15.8 feet long and 2.35 meters/7.3 feet wide) but is actually a few percent larger and weighs about a third more. Like the hummers built with armor (rather than having it added), the LMV provides excellent protection from bullets and roadside bombs. The V-shaped hull of the LMV improves protection from explosions beneath the vehicle. The LMV costs nearly half a million dollars each, when tricked out with all the accessories and is a major improvement over the older EE-11.

The Italian manufacturer, Iveco, has already sold the LMV to Spain, Italy, Belgium, Britain, and Norway. The Italian army ordered 1,210 LMVs and some were used in Afghanistan, where they performed well. Russia was going to buy at least 60 LMVs but the 2014 economic sanction placed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine halted that, for the moment. The Russians originally wanted to build 2,000 LMVs locally under license but the collapse of oil prices after 2013 put that on hold before the sanctions even became a factor. Meanwhile 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.

 


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