Brazilian Army Adopts First Rifle with 100 Percent Brazilian Technology
By Nelza Oliveira/Diálogo September 20, 2017The Brazilian Army (EB, per its Portuguese acronym) is gradually replacing its troops’ most used weapon, the FAL 7.62 mm M964 automatic rifle, with the IA2 5.56 mm assault rifle, the first rifle containing 100 percent Brazilian technology. Through its press office, EB explained to Diálogo that the replacement process began because the institution has employed the FAL 7.62 mm M964 rifle since the mid-1960s. According to the press release, a portion of these rifles is already showing signs of being worn out per the standards of military hardware life cycles, which regulate how long the company’s equipment can be used. According to EB, this new weapon offers some advantages over the FAL 7.62 mm M964 rifle. For example, it is lighter, has a higher-capacity magazine for ammunition (30 cartridges), and can be fitted with sight- and target-selection devices, as well as having less potential for collateral damage when used in urban environments, as its size is suited to close-quarter combat. “There are now almost 8,000 of these IA2 5.56 mm assault rifles in use. The replacement will happen gradually, determined by the availability of budgetary resources, with a forecasted completion in 10 years,” EB stated. Longtime forerunner The IA2 5.56 mm assault rifle is being produced in one of five units of Brazil’s War Materials Industry (IMBEL, per its Portuguese acronym) in Itajubá, in the state of Minas Gerais. This state-owned company was founded in 1975 and is linked to the Ministry of Defense via the Army High Command, which manufactures arms, munitions, explosives, and other items and equipment for the defense and security sectors. According to Brazilian Army Colonel Marcelo Muniz Costa, a corporate communications advisor for IMBEL, the new rifle’s main improvements are its rotating bolt-action system and its use of Picatinny rail mounts which allow it to be fitted with various devices, such as tactical lights, laser sights, rapid-target acquisition scopes, night vision scopes or precision targeting scopes, tactical grips, and grenade launchers. In addition, new ergonomic elements were used along with a lighter, high-resistance polymer material, resulting in better handling and less weight - 3.38 kilograms unloaded. The FAL 7.62 mm M964 rifle weighs one kilogram more. Col. Muniz explained that IMBEL’s first projects on the way to the IA2 5.56 mm assault rifle began in the first decade of the 21st century. This new product is an evolution from IMBEL’s 5.56 mm MD97L rifle, which was researched in 1995 and tested in 1997, thus why it has 97 in the model number. “Exhaustive testing for the development of the IA2 5.56 mm rifle was done at the factory. The tests were varied in nature and purpose: sand, dust, high and low temperatures, resistance, 8- to15-second submersion in water, safety, and accuracy. There were also field tests, which took more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition to complete,” Col. Muniz said. “All of this development effort culminated in a smaller size weapon, one that is light, reliable, resistant, easy to handle and maintain, and able to be fitted with various optical/optronic or tactical devices that transform the IA2 5.56 mm assault rifle into a veritable weapon system.” New product evaluation by the Army Evaluation Center (CAEx, per its Portuguese acronym) began in 2011, adhering to international standards as well as EB’s own Basic Operating Requirements and the Ministry of Defense’s Joint Operating Requirements. After CAEx approved the tests, it was manufactured in 2013 as a pilot lot of 1,500 units for operational certification by EB, which initiated its adoption in 2015. New prototype From then on, the IA2 5.56 mm assault rifle was used by EB for security in large events such as the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and in strategic programs such as the Integrated Border Monitoring System, as well as in the 26th Brazilian Contingent of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti – a group that will end Brazil’s participation in that peacekeeping mission. The IA2 is available in automatic, semi-automatic, and repeater versions for launching rifle grenades at a rate of 600 shots per minute. The project investment, according to EB, was about $16 million. Each unit of this new rifle costs EB about $2,022, whereas the old rifle costs about $1,580. According to Col. Muniz, the Brazilian Navy and Air Force are also studying the possibility of adopting it as a standard weapon. “Certain nations have shown an interest in the IA2 product line, particularly our South American neighbors and some African nations. The company foresees the possibility of exporting these products over the midterm, given their current demand in Brazil, as represented by the various orders placed by public security agencies and by the gradual replacement of the current FAL 7.62 mm M964 rifles used by the Brazilian Army,” Col. Muniz added. A new 7.62 mm rifle from the same IA2 product line, manufactured by IMBEL, has already been launched and is now in its testing phase. “The prototype of this IA2 7.62 mm assault rifle is ready and is being evaluated by CAEx. After the prototype is evaluated, the pilot lot will have to be tested. As soon as that is finished, the rifle will be ready for distribution to the troops,” EB confirmed in its press release.