Brazilian Army Acquires U.S. Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles
By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo March 19, 2018The Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) took one more step toward expanding its firing capacity through the acquisition of 40 M992A2 vehicles. The U.S.-made equipment is due to arrive in Brazil in the second half of 2018.
The M992A2 is a special field artillery ammunition support armored vehicle originally used by the U.S. Army. Its internal components were built to store munitions for the M109 family of howitzers, which EB also acquired and upgraded to the M109A5+ version. “When used in military operations, the M992A2 is generally paired with an M109 howitzer,” said Lieutenant Colonel André Luís Ferreira Nogueira, assistant to the Class 9 Armored Vehicles Section for EB’s Directorate of Materiel.
Both vehicle models—the M992A2 and the M109—are part of the complete set of military equipment that the U.S. military made available through a donation under the Foreign Military Sales program. The M992A2 units arriving in 2018 will be the first artillery of this kind in EB. A technical committee of EB’s Logistics Command—a team of two engineers and three mechanics—selected each of the vehicles on a visit to the warehouse in the United States, in December 2016.
“We selected the armored vehicles that were in the best state of repair according to certain criteria that we established, such as engine, wheel drive, and condition of the tracks,” Lt. Col. Nogueira explained. “Through our assessment of these items, we arrived at a final grade for each vehicle. Those with the highest grades were chosen,” Lt. Col. Nogueira said.
The field artillery ammunition support vehicles will undergo maintenance once in Brazil. The objective is for a detailed inspection, such as radiator leaks, oil leaks, and other issues. “There won’t be any changes to the vehicle design. The inspections will only be for revisions and specific repairs needed to operate the equipment,” indicated the Brazilian Army Social Communications Center.
The work will be done at the Regional Maintenance Center for the 5th Military Region, a unit specialized in armored vehicle maintenance. Once the phase is completed, the 40 M992A2 vehicles will be sent to the 5th Armored Infantry Brigade (5ª Bda C Bld, in Portuguese) and the 6th Armored Infantry Brigade, which fall under EB's Southern Military Command. Both brigades will also receive the M109A5+ units.
On March 8th, the first four howitzers version M109A5+ were unloaded from a ship arriving from the United States in the port of Paranaguá, in the south of Brazil. In all, 32 howitzers will be delivered.
Unlike the M992A2, the M109A5 armored vehicles receive upgrades at facilities in the United States before shipping to EB. With the improvement, the howitzers will go from the A5 to the A5+ version.
M109 Howitzers are heavy self-propelled weapons mounted on vehicles that can be deployed on the ground. The equipment is commonly mistaken for cannons. “But cannons fire straight, while howitzers make a curve shot,” pointed out EB Lieutenant Colonel Sanzio Ricardo Rocha Gusmão, commander of the 5th Self-Propelled Artillery Group, of the 5ª Bda C Bld.
When in operation, M109 howitzers need the M992A2 to reload their munitions—which explains the coordinated use of these armored vehicles. When firing, field artillery ammunition support vehicles position themselves very close to the howitzer. Service members manually remove the munitions in the M992A2 through the rear of the vehicle for transfer to the howitzer team, who load the weapon.
Munitions used are 155-millimeter artillery grenades. They can be self-explosive, illuminating, or smoke (to spread smoke over the area) grenades, among others, depending on the mission of the armored vehicles. “However, the caliber doesn’t change. It’s always 155 millimeters, because that’s the caliber used on the howitzer,” Lt. Col. Nogueira said.
An M992A2 crew is made up of a driver and two service members to unload munitions from the vehicle during operations. To operate these new armored vehicles, the brigades plan to train with a focus on loading and unloading munitions.
Lt. Col. Nogueira believes service members will easily adapt to driving the M992A2, as they are already used to the M109 howitzers. Both armored vehicles are mounted on the same model of chassis and have the same drive structure. EB has close to 35 M109 (M109A3 version), which it acquired throughout the 2000s—armored brigades use the vehicles.