Brazil, an Aspiring Power Strengthening Its Defense Industry
By Dialogo October 27, 2010
The Brazil that will be inherited by the winner of the election on 30 October is expanding its military power and strengthening its arms industry in giant steps, with commercial objectives but also in order to establish the basis for its access to the great-power club, analysts estimate.
The new occupant of the Palacio de Planalto on 1 January will be the first president expected to apply in full the new National Defense Strategy, which has modernized the Brazilian vision of this sector and laid the foundations for a powerful defense industry in the South American giant.
In the last eight years, the country has acquired an unprecedented international presence, thanks in part to the charisma of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, playing an active role in the most important international forums.
And the area of defense is no exception.
At the regional level, Brazil promoted the Defense Council of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), which the countries of the block joined.
“Brazil’s transformation into a military power is a new discussion in the country, even for the military. The idea of Brazil as a developed country from the defense perspective and without its traditional alignments is new in the country,” Nelson During, an independent defense specialist, told AFP.
For this expert, Brazil’s objective is to strengthen itself from the military perspective “as an independent power.”
Brazil’s performance at the head of the military arm of the UN mission deployed in Haiti since 2004 allowed the country to take responsibility for this facet of an international mission in which dozens of countries are involved, achieving in addition an enormous training rotation for its soldiers in a crisis situation.
“In January, Brazil lost several soldiers in Haiti (as a consequence of the earthquake), and the country accepted what had happened well. No one asked for the troops to return. Now there’s already talk of sending (Brazilian) blue helmets to Lebanon. This is to say that this active role is already following its own course,” During remarked.
The international-relations specialist Sabrina Medeiros told AFP that “Brazil is already seen as a trustworthy associate, but it’s necessary to consolidate a deterrence capability as a support for this new role that the country is playing” in the international diplomatic arena.
Brazil “does not suffer from classic or conventional threats, nor are there border disputes, and this demands the adoption of a modern strategy. The new National Strategy is the first step in the process,” in the summary of Carlos Alberto Teixeira, a professor at the Naval War College.
Looking forward, the key to this strategy, adopted in 2008, is the decision to establish the basis for an arms industry, with the long-term expectation of turning Brazil into an exporter of military technology.
For During, the development of a defense industry “will run into a natural brake, which is the market. It will be very difficult for Brazil to find space in the defense technology market, where there are very powerful actors.”
Meanwhile, the country is trying to acquire packets of military technology.
The modernization process includes as its most ambitious step the purchase of thirty-six latest-generation fighter planes.
The competitors bidding for the project are the French firm Dassault with its Rafale model, the administration’s favorite; the U.S. giant Boeing with its F-18 Super Hornet model; and the Swedish Saab, with its Grippen airplanes.
Brazil has already bought from France four Scorpene attack submarines and the shell of a fifth, which will be adapted for a nuclear motor being developed by the Brazilian Navy.
The country has also bought from France 50 EC-725 transport helicopters, which will be assembled in Brazil with local workers, and this fleet of helicopters will be completed with 24 Russian Mi-35Ms.
At the same time, Brazil signed an association agreement with Italy in June for an Italian firm to manufacture 2,044 armored personnel carriers on Brazilian soil over twenty years.
Italy and the United Kingdom are competing with one another for the contracts for ocean-going patrol ships. The Italians want to place their FREMM frigates.
Meanwhile, the Brazilian Air Force and the Brazilian civil aerospace firm Embraer are developing the powerful KC-390 airplane, designed to replace the American Hercules C-130. Embraer plans to sell seven hundred KC-390 logistical-transport and troop-transport planes, “one hundred of them in South America,” according to the firm, an emblem of the incipient local defense industry.