Operation with Armored Vehicles Trains Brazilian Service Members in National Defense
By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo November 01, 2017To close out its year of training, the 5th Armored Cavalry Brigade (5ª Bda C Bld, per its Portuguese designation) of the Brazilian Army (EB, per its Portuguese acronym) conducted Operation Steel September 18th–27th. The focus was ground training with armored vehicles in a simulated live combat situation. Five hundred twenty-one service members participated in the exercise, including commanders, soldiers, and general staff officers from the military units. The upper ranks planned the operation to the last details: issuing orders and leading troops to take target positions, all the way to allocating duties to armored vehicle commanders, drivers, snipers, and sniper assistants — who were able to practice their driving and traffic skills in the field that culminated with live-fire discharge. Compared to the previous edition, the annual Operation Steel exercise grew in size in 2017. The operation involved seven of the 12 military units under the 5ª Bda C Bld and 88 vehicles — among those, 16 M113 BR armored personnel transport vehicles and 16 armored Leopard 1A5 BR combat vehicles. The training traditionally held near the city of Ponta Grossa, in the state of Paraná — where the 5ª Bda C Bld is located — took place in the Barão de São Borja Training Camp. The camp, located almost 1,000 kilometers from the brigade’s headquarters, is among the EB’s largest and is fitted for armored forces training. “This change allowed us to do a strategic shift that counted as training for the military units of the brigade which, as a strategic force within the Army, needs to be ready to act in any part of the country and abroad,” explained EB Major General Jorge Roberto Fossi, commander of 5ª Bda C Bld. As real as it gets Operation Steel started with live-fire training from combat vehicles. The 3rd Combat Vehicle Regiment initiated the live-fire training during the first three days of the exercise. The 5th Combat Vehicle Regiment assumed that responsibility next. “We went through 450 cannon shots from the Leopard vehicles. There were also more than 1,000 rounds fired with the machine guns on the M113 BR vehicles,” Maj. Gen. Fossi said. After that phase came the activities planning, ground reconnaissance from participating troops, and finally, the execution of the operation on the battlefield. All of that took five days. The scenario: an opposing force occupied certain positions that Brazilian troops had to take. Service members also equipped with combat vehicles, represented the fictitious enemy. “The training was very intense. Troops got a feel for how exhausting real combat is. Food and sleep were limited because we had to monitor the battlefield at all times,” said EB Sergeant Jhonatan Fernando de Lima, of the 3rd Combat Vehicle Regiment. In Operation Steel, he acted as a squad assistant, responsible for leading a section of two combat vehicles. In addition to combatants, support teams with vehicle maintenance and health care facilities — including doctors, dentists, assistants, among which were four women — participated in the operation. “The support personnel simulated a brigade-level logistics base. As the operation developed, those support teams also advanced, accompanying the troops’ progression,” Maj. Gen. Fossi stated. Operation Steel culminated with an attack on a town — 12 hours of nonstop ground operations. “In spite of the fatigue, the experience was quite positive. I think the main takeaway was in the fire coordination, because troops used live fire and that makes all the difference compared to what we practiced in other trainings using simulated fire,” Sgt. Jhonatan said of his experience in the mission. “Also, it was an opportunity for participants to get closer to their units,” he added. For Maj. Gen. Fossi, the operation was a success. “Everything happened in the best way possible. I consider the objectives to have been fully met,” he said. Upgraded vehicles The EB’s M113 BR vehicles have been undergoing upgrades since 2011. The 16 units the 5ª Bda C Bld used in Operation Steel are among those that already completed that process. They have higher horsepower than earlier versions and can reach speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour on roadways and nearly 45 kilometers per hour on dirt. “Those are speeds that allow the M113 BR to keep up with the Leopard combat vehicle, which also gets up to 62 kilometers per hour,” Maj. Gen. Fossi explained. He said the vehicles have an upgraded periscope that facilitates observation on the battlefield for the driver. In addition, the continuous tracks are made of rubber, a material that renders better operating conditions.