VBTP Guarani: A New APC for Brazil
In December 2009, Brazil signed a EUR 2.5 billion deal with Italy’s Iveco that aims to renew its wheeled armored personnel carrier fleet, and revive Brazil’s land vehicle defense industry in the bargain. The 6×6 Guarani Viatura Blindada Transporte de Pessoal, Media de Rodas (VBTP-MR) is envisaged as a vehicle family that can replace Engesa’s EE-11 and EE-9 wheeled vehicles. Those platforms have suffered from age-related problems, questionable protection levels, and a shortage of ready spares since Engesa’s 1993 bankruptcy.
Iveco is best known around the world for its trucks, but its Iveco Fiat Oto Melara joint venture has designed and fielded the core of Italy’s tank, wheeled APC, and tracked IFV fleets. The firm already has the new Puma wheeled 6×6/ 4×4 APC in its offering set, but the VBTP will offer them a new market, a new joint venture, and new export opportunities.
VBTP: The Need
Brazil’s armored vehicle fleet is currently dominated by a set of Engesa’s vehicles. The EE-11 Urutu wheeled 6×6 APC was popular with a number of foreign clients, as well as Brazil’s own forces. It is named after a local pit viper, per Brazilian tradition (bothrops alternatus, also known as Jararaca and Yarara). The EE-9 Cascavel 6×6 armored vehicle is easily recognizable by its 90mm gun, and was produced for Brazil and for numerous foreign clients. That warning silhouette is replicated in its choice of name, which refers to the South American Rattlesnake (crotalus durissus).
By the early 1990s, however, Engesa’s main client was Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The 1991 Gulf War, and subsequent international embargoes on weapon sales to Iraq, destroyed the firm. With its main client gone, no orders of consequence forthcoming in its home market, and its innovative Osorio medium tank elbowed aside by Saudi Arabia in favor of the American M1, Engesa went bankrupt in 1993. When it did, Brazil’s impressive local defense industry lost the heart of its advanced vehicle capabilities.
It also lost the main source of parts and maintenance for Brazil’s armored vehicle fleet. Brazil continues to operate its vehicles, and despite the EE-11′s weakness against some armor-piercing small arms rounds, it has been used in missions like the UN operation to stabilize Haiti. Even so, it was clear to the Brazilians that a replacement was needed. The combination of a rising resource economy and local threats have also driven 2 key trends in Brazil. One is a very significant increase in Brazil’s defense budgets, which have led to recapitalization programs for fighter jets, helicopters, air transports, and submarines. The other is a determination to restore Brazil’s decayed local defense industry, now that the Cold War’s inherent geo-political advantages for NATO and Warsaw Pact affiliated defense firms have vanished.
VBTP Guarani: The Vehicles
The new VBTP-MR is currently envisaged as an 18-tonne (about 20 ton) vehicle at full recommended weight (GVW), with amphibious capacity up to 17.5 tonnes. It will be powered by a FPT diesel engine coupled to an automatic gearbox, and is designed to carry a crew of 10 dismounts plus the driver. Outline specifications include dimensions of 6.9m long x 2.7 m wide x 2.34 m high, which allow its to fit into a C-130 Hercules or forthcoming Brazilian KC-390 transport aircraft dimensionally, as well as by weight.
The vehicle can be fitted with a variety of remote-controlled weapon stations for additional firepower, including Elbit’s ORCWS UT-30BR, with its 30mm cannon and ability to carry anti-tank missiles. Standard UT-30BR armament is a 30mm cannon, 7.62mm co-axial machine gun, and smoke grenades, along with a panoramic commander’s sight and a laser warner.
Because the vehicles are currently under development, all figures should be considered provisional. The work is being carried out jointly by the Brazilian Army (through the project Mobility Strategy and the DCT – Department of Science and Technology) and Iveco. By late 2009, around 30 million Brazilian Reais (EUR 12 million) had been invested in vehicle definition with “major specialist Brazilian companies.”
VBTP: Contracts and Key Events
Oct 24/12: Elbit’s Brazilian subsidiary Ares Aeroespacial e Defensa Ltda. announces a $25 million contract to supply its stabilized REMAX remote weapon stations to the Brazilian Army. This is the 1st production order, and deliveries will be made from 2012-2014.
REMAX was designed to be part of the VBTP program, and seems to be characterized by a simple and easy to maintain design. The RCWS has already completed testing, and can also be mounted on other vehicles. Elbit Systems.
Sept 13/12: UT-30 RWS. Elbit’s Brazilian subsidiary AEL Sistemas S.A. receives an initial $15 million production order for UT-30BR 30mm remotely operated turrets, to equip VBTP Guarani vehicles. It’s an order under the Jan 6/11 umbrella contract. Elbit Systems | AEL [in Portuguese].
Aug 7/12: +86. Brazil and Iveco sign a BRL 240 million (about $119 million) contract for 86 VBTP MR Guarani evaluation vehicles, for delivery from 2013-2014. The contract allows Iveco to start production beyond the current 16-vehicle pilot batch (vid. Dec 18/09 entry), and get ready to produce the Army’s main order.
The Guaranis will be produced at a dedicated Iveco factory in Sete Lagoas, Mato Grosso state. Large-scale production should begin in early 2013, and the supply chain involves 110 direct and 600 indirect Brazilian firms. The production rate for Brazil alone is expected to reach about 100 units per year over the next 20 years, and exports are likely. Argentina has already indicated interest in about 14 Guaranis as a peace-keeping buy.
Defence Minister Cesar Amorim says that 48 of these 86 vehicles were included in the government’s Growth Acceleration Program (PAC infrastructure/ stimulus) financing, as part of a wider BRL 1.527 billion military program that will also buy 4,170 trucks and 30 Astros 2020 missile launch Vehicles. The transfer of the funds money was authorized in late June 2012, through a Provisional Measure signed by President Rousseff. Now, if only the Army could do something about having enough ammunition for just 1 hour of war… Brazilian MdD [in Portuguese] | Mercopress.
86 evaluation vehicles
May 10/12: REMAX RWS. ARES light RWS turret is featured in the Independence Day parade, mounted on a Guarani armored vehicle. ARES.
2009 – 2011
Sept 7/11: UT-30 RWS. Elbit Systems announces that the 1st UT-30 unmanned turret has successfully completed VBTP acceptance testing in Brazil.
Aug 18/11: REMAX RWS. Elbit subsidiary ARES announces that the first phase of tests for the REMAX 12.7mm Remote Weapon Station have been successful, with a follow-on round of firing tests beginning later in the year. REMAX was developed by ARES under CTEx requirements, and would become the first Weapon Station manufactured and developed in Brazil.
Jan 6/11: UT-30 RWS. Elbit Systems’ Brazilian subsidiary Aeroeletronica Ltda. (AEL) receives a 440 million Real (about $260 million) framework contract to supply “a few hundred” of their 30 mm Unmanned Turrets to the Brazilian Army’s Guarani Project.
This is the full production follow-on to the April 13/09 award, but the exact number of orders isn’t clear yet. Orders will take place over a number of years, per Brazilian decisions and funding. Elbit Systems.
UT-30BR RCWS contract
Dec 18/09: Contract. The Brazilian Army signs a 6 billion Brazilian Real (about EUR 2.5 billion) umbrella contract to supply up to 2,044 base model VBTP-MR 6×6 wheeled APCs, to replace the old EE-11 Urutu in Brazilian service. The contract will run for over 20 years, and also includes manufacturer support.
The first prototype is under construction in Brazil, and is still scheduled for the first half of 2010. Another 16 units of a pilot batch will be produced by Iveco in Brazil between 2010 – 2011. Full production is planned to run from 2012-2030, and all production, including engines, will take place in Brazil. To that end, Iveco LA supported by Iveco Defence Vehicles will prepare a defense dedicated unit in Brazil, including Research, Sales & marketing, Production, Quality, and Aftersales service groups. The local supply chain is expected to involve more than 100 direct suppliers, and hundreds of indirect suppliers. Iveco release.
Umbrella contract: 2,044
April 7/09: Iveco announces that they will will present a mock-up of the new Brazilian 6×6 VBTP-MR at the April 14th Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD) Exhibition. The company promises that a prototype will be delivered by the end of 2009, for army testing beginning in April 2010. Another 16 additional units are slated for production and testing up to 2011, when a decision is expected on a final VBTP-MR fleet order for the Brazilian Army.
Iveco’s production plan would produce the initial 16-17 vehicles using imported components, but local content would gradually increase to over 60%. The company already has a growing supplier base in Brazil, where it produces around 15,000 trucks per year plus diesel engines. Iveco release at Defpro | Defense Update LAAD 2009 report.
April 13/09: UT-30 RWS. Elbit Systems Ltd. announces a contract to supply its UT-30 unmanned turrets to the Brazilian Army, for installation on the VBTP-MR. The company says they were selected as a result of a competition including leading global manufacturers in the field, but adds that the contract amount for the program’s first phase is not material to Elbit Systems overall results. That would change, of course, once orders are confirmed for full-rate VBTP production.
The ORCWS UT-30 unmanned turret is a complete system, incorporating an automatic cannon up to 30mm, a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun, a Laser Warning System (LWS), commander panoramic sights, and smoke grenade launchers. A fully stabilized dual axes and an automatic target tracker keep weapons on target from the remote weapons station inside the vehicle. The turret does not crowd out space inside the vehicle, and offers light weight and a fold-flat capability for air transport.
Elbit’s ORCWS systems have been sold to a number of customers around the world, and equip several models of wheeled and tracked APCs. The Israeli firm is also an important local supplier to Brazil’s defense force, through its Brazilian subsidiary Aeroelectronica Industria de Componentes Avionicos S.A (AEL). The firm’s avionics equip most of Brazil’s fighter fleet, and it also sells and services a variety of defense-related electronics and optronics.
Elbit’s UT-30 turret picked
December 2007: IVECO L.A. and the Brazilian Ministry of Defense agree to co-develop a wheeled medium APC. The project will be supported by IVECO Defence Vehicles in Northern Italy, but VBTP-MR will be developed and manufactured at IVECO LA’s Sete Lagoas plant in Minas Gerais (Brazil).
- Army Guide – UT 30 Remote controlled weapon station
- Elbit Systems – UT-25, UT-30
- AEL – UT30BR – Sistema de Armas Remotamente Controlado
- ARES – REMAX. RCWS for 12.7mm and below.
- DID (Jan 4/11) – Tracked RESET: Brazil Sticks With its M113s. The tracked fleet will also get some attention, but there will be just 150.