Brazilian Army Upgrades Armored Vehicle Fleet
By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo April 03, 2017In 2017, the Brazilian Army (EB, per its Portuguese acronym) must add 60 more “Guarani” armored personnel carriers to its fleet. The new units are 6x6 vehicles, model VBTP-MR. The projected acquisition is part of a procurement timeline for the Guarani Program, a major focus for the Army, which is eager to upgrade its combat resources. The program, implemented in 2013, is aimed at developing and procuring a modern fleet of armed vehicles for EB. “The choice of a new model of armored vehicle is based on military doctrine requirements, and the demands of fulfilling our national defense and civil protection missions,” explained Major General Edson Henrique Ramires, program manager for the Guarani Program. At the end of 2016, the Brazilian government reaffirmed its commitment to purchase these vehicles with a roughly $2 billion contract with Iveco, the Brazilian company responsible for manufacturing the vehicles, and also the company that partnered with the Brazilian Army’s Department of Science and Technology in the development of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6. Armored vehicles in the city Out of the 1,580 vehicles to be delivered to the force through 2038, 232 Guarani vehicles are already in use in different military units. In addition to their use in troop training and military exercises, the vehicles have already been featured in important missions. “The VBTP-MR 6x6 was successfully used in Operation Maré, as well as at the 2016 Olympic Games, both held in Rio de Janeiro,” Maj. Gen. Ramires recalled. The 2015 Operation Maré consisted of supporting the military in the process of pacifying the favelas (shanty towns) that make up the so-called Maré Complex, a community plagued by high levels of violence associated with drug trafficking. During that operation, Guarani vehicles were operated by soldiers of the 9th Motorized Infantry Brigade. That same brigade led in the use of Guarani vehicles during the 2016 Olympic Games. “We had excellent performance,” said Major Luiz Guilherme de Oliveira e Silva, deputy of the Operations Division for the 9th Motorized Infantry Brigade Training Unit. In February, the unit deployed Guarani units for use in security operations during a wave of violence that swept the city of Vitória in the state of Espírito Santo, and once again in Rio de Janeiro. For Maj. Luiz Guilherme, the modern communications, navigation, and weapons systems that come in Guarani vehicles facilitated the use of these vehicles during the operations in Rio de Janeiro. But Maj. Luiz Guilherme also recalled some challenges. “The biggest challenge while using these vehicles inside the city was making trips in Rio traffic, even with the flashing lights and safety precautions that are needed for this kind of activity.” Of the 232 vehicles EB has received to date, 39 are in the 9th Motorized Infantry Brigade. Others have been distributed to the 3rd Motorized Infantry Brigade in Goiás and to the Armored Vehicle Training Center in Rio Grande do Sul. Still more were delivered to military units under the 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Paraná — which took part in the testing to validate the vehicles’ capabilities — and to units of the 4th Mechanized Cavalry Brigade, located in Mato Grosso, which was already using the vehicles for Operation Ágata in Brazil’s border regions. Protection and agility The VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 is designed for soldier transport, meaning that its function is to deploy troops in patrol missions, as well as in armed combat situations. For that reason, the development of this model prioritized the pursuit of greater security for the soldiers traveling in it. Guarani is the first Brazilian-made armored vehicle with anti-mine protection. Its floor was built to withstand up to 13 pounds of explosives. If it is hit with a blast of such magnitude, the vehicle will be blown off the ground, but its occupants will not be at serious risk, according to tests done by EB engineers in the Guarani’s approval stage, when mannequins were used in place of soldiers. The Guarani’s frame is also protected by steel that can withstand 7.62 mm rifle rounds. It also can be fitted with additional shielding against anti-air machine gun projectiles. “In addition to its armor protection, the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 offers relative comfort for the troops on board,” Maj. Luiz Guilherme emphasized. These are large vehicles, with a length of 7.1 meters, height of 2.6 meters, width of 2.8 meters, and room for 11 crew members. The seats have safety belts that fasten at five different points. On land, Guarani vehicles can go up to a speed of 100 km/h, with a fuel range of 600 km. And in amphibious mode, the vehicle reaches a maximum speed of 9 km/h. Firing capability The VBTP-MR 6X6 is gradually replacing the Urutu and Cascavel models that EB adopted in the 1970s. One of the main advantages the Guarani vehicle has over its predecessors is its weapons system. “They are more modern systems that allow for better firing control and more precision, particularly when the vehicle is moving,” Maj. Gen. Ramires stated. Guarani vehicles can be equipped with a 30mm-cannon, 7.62mm- and 12.7mm-machine guns, and a 40mm-grenade launcher. “Depending on how it’s configured, it can be used for national defense or civil protection operations,” Maj. Gen. Ramires stated. In 2017, the program expects to receive 50 weapon stations for 7.62mm- and 12.7mm-machine guns. By 2020, 215 weapon stations should be procured. This equipment is attached to the vehicles, and it has remote-controlled automatic firing. It also has a computerized aiming and firing control system, as well as day- and night-vision cameras that provide precision firing.