Brazilian Army Updates Its Weapons Capabilities
By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo December 07, 2016The U.S. Army is selling 11 C-23B Sherpa airplanes, and the Brazilian Army is evaluating the possibility of acquiring four of these aircraft for the purpose of reactivating its fixed-wing aviation group. “The pilot batch that Brazil wants to acquire is four airplanes, which will be headed for the Amazon Military Command, for use in humanitarian aid missions in the most remote areas,” said General Guilherme Cals Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira, head of the Logistics Command of the Brazilian Army (COLOG, per its Portuguese acronym). He said that the features of the C-23B Sherpa are well suited to the needs of the military units that operate in the Amazon region. “This is rustic aviation, with takeoffs and landings using all types of short runways. This is a big advantage for us, because ground conditions in the Amazon vary widely.” In addition, the C-23B Sherpa has a ramp that opens on both sides — an important feature when considering the agility it provides upon landing. It even has high cargo capacity — around two tons — and can transport 30 soldiers. The units for sale from the U.S. Army were decommissioned in early 2014, after two decades of use by the National Guard. The aircraft are being overhauled in San Antonio, Texas. Gen. Theophilo visited San Antonio the first week of October to check the condition of the equipment. His assessment was positive. “Once they are upgraded, the aircraft will have a life cycle until 2038. In other words, they will gain the ability to fly for the amount of time that we want, and in the conditions that we are expecting, for 21 years,” he stated. The other two C-23B Sherpa units should be overhauled within the next two months. An AEL Systems representative was part of the delegation that accompanied Gen. Theophilo to the United States. The Brazilian company provides maintenance services for technological systems in various sectors, including the aeronautics industry, and was identified as a potential partner in the event of the need for maintenance on the C-23B Sherpa airplanes in Brazil. If the purchase is approved, and the performance of the airplanes is satisfactory, Brazil could acquire another seven available units for the Northern Military Command and the Western Military Command. Before the transaction can be finalized, however, certain steps must take place. The loosening of sales restrictions is under review by the U.S. Department of Defense. “After that, we will need to define the parameters of what will be upgraded on the aircraft,” explained COLOG's Colonel Washington Rocha Triani, who accompanied Gen. Theophilo on his trip to the United States. For now, the C-23B Sherpa units are undergoing a basic service of the components in the engines, airframe, landing gear, and avionics of the aircraft, said Col. Triani. The Latest in armored vehicles While negotiations surrounding the C-23B Sherpa are in their initial phase, another contract between the U.S. and Brazilian militaries to purchase armored vehicles is moving full-steam ahead. In York, Pennsylvania, 32 M109-A5 howitzers are in the BAE Systems’ manufacturing plant, where some parts are being removed for reuse. This is the beginning of an upgrading process that is the result of a contract signed between both countries in 2012. The vehicles were acquired by the Brazilian Army through a donation made under the Foreign Military Sales program, administered by the U.S. Department of Defense. “Upon closing the donation agreement, we set up a contract for upgrading these state-owned armored vehicles to a more modern version; that is, from version A5 to A5+," said Colonel Everton Pacheco da Silva, head of the Armored Vehicles Section of the Materiel Directorate of the Brazilian Army. Col. Everton said the upgrade is a measure by which items, components, and technologies are supplemented, adding operational capacity to a given piece of military equipment. It is projected that the overhaul will be completed by October 2018, when the M109-A5+ howitzers will be ready for delivery to Brazil. Until then, Brazilian Army soldiers will monitor the work at the York factory to gain the skills to perform maintenance on these vehicles at Brazilian Army installations. “We are planning on a three- or four-person team that will go there when our vehicles are started on the assembly line, possibly in the second half of 2017,” stated Col. Everton, who was in York at the beginning of October. Thus it is clear that the exchange with the U.S. military is no longer restricted to the material aspect, but also to the level of knowledge. Multiple advantages The range of fire of the M109-A5 howitzer is 42 kilometers. The equipment owned by the Brazilian Army reaches just 24 kilometers. This is the first advantage Col. Everton pointed out regarding the new howitzers. “Additionally, these vehicles fire more rapidly, and they have parts that can be purchased much easier on the market. And what's more, these M109-A5 vehicles are more technologically advanced, with radar control and ammunition rate control, as well as having many different sensors,” Col. Everton added. The M109-A5, which is being converted to the A5+ version, is an armored vehicle that rides on caterpillar tracks. In Brazil, this kind of vehicle is used mainly in the southern part of the country, where the terrain is flatter. That is why a batch of 16 of these armored vehicles will be provided to the 3rd Self-Propelled Field Artillery Group in Santa Maria (Rio Grande do Sul state), and another 16 units will go to the 5th Self-Propelled Field Artillery Group in Curitiba (Paraná state).