The Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) is set to receive by October 2018 eight MK3M modernized vehicles, capable of firing a missile and four different types of rockets from a single launcher. Brazilian company Avibras was contracted in 2012 to update the technology on 38 MK2 and MK3 vehicles used by the 6th Missile and Rocket Group (GMF, in Portuguese). This will be its fourth and final delivery.
The delivery marks the conclusion of strategic program ASTROS 2020. Additional key steps already took place in 2018. EB inaugurated the ASTROS 2020 Instruction Center and the program’s Logistics Center on January 25th and February 1st. The new facilities kicked off operations and are part of the Fort Santa Bárbara complex, a military conglomerate in the midst of construction in the city of Formosa, Goiás state, in central Brazil.
“It’s a personal accomplishment to command a military logistics organization because I’m an officer who works with war materials. It’s particularly [important] at this installation, whose weapons system requires us to have in-depth professional knowledge and work with complex management tools,” said EB Lieutenant Colonel Giovani Siqueira, who assumed command of the Logistics Center during the inauguration ceremony.
“We are building EB’s missile and rocket artillery center,” said EB Major General José Júlio Dias Barreto, ASTROS 2020 project lead, in an exclusive interview with Diálogo in Brasília. In addition to modernizing EB’s equipment and constructing new facilities, the program incorporates research and development projects and the acquisition of new vehicles. “The expectation is that the program as a whole will be finalized in 2023, if there are no funding delays.”
In the area of research and development, ASTROS 2020 seeks to create and manufacture tactical cruise missiles (known as MTC-300 in Brazil), SS-40G guided rockets, and the Integrated Simulation System (SIS-ASTROS, in Portuguese). The MTC-300 missile is unprecedented for the Brazilian Armed Forces. Its development began in 2005. In March 2018, the missile entered the final phase of development when test flights resumed.
The missile has a range of 300 kilometers and is accurate to within 50 meters. Its smart navigation is guided by GPS and other technology. With the use of an optical-electronic sensor, the missile can follow the terrain and correct its trajectory with coordinates inserted into the onboard computer before launch. Developing MTC-300 allows Brazil to join seven countries with this technology, according to information from EPEX.
As a long-range, high-accuracy defense weapon, MTC-300 can be used in missions to destroy large structures, such as hydroelectric plants and oil refineries. EB initially ordered 100 units of the missile, to be delivered between 2020 and 2023.
The SS-40G guided rocket is another weapon developed within the framework of the ASTROS 2020 program. It is based off the SS-40 model rocket, which reaches a range of 40 km and which the ASTROS system already uses. With new technology, the latest version gains precision and, consequently reduces collateral damage. “Currently, the world’s artillery operates using a strategy of saturation. The aim is for this to change and follow a strategy of precision. As such, the rocket and other weapons would be guided and hit the target. The dispersion is very low,” explained Maj. Gen. Barreto.
The goal is to provide service members with more adequate training to prepare them to use the new ASTROS system equipment SIS-ASTROS is developing. The system brings together several types of simulators, as well as software for computer-based training. EB and the Federal University of Santa Maria in Rio Grande do Sul partnered to develop the SIS-ASTROS project. The project is expected to be ready in 2019, when it will be delivered to Avibras, which will manufacture the set of simulators. Once completed, SIS-ASTROS will be installed at the ASTROS 2020 Instruction Center at Fort Santa Bárbara in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina state.
The ASTROS 2020 artillery system was created to provide EB with long-range firing support, a resource that allows for greater deterrence—a greater capacity to weaken and prevent attacks and threats from enemy forces. The ASTROS 2020 system basic training lineup includes a total of 13 vehicles, all with different functions. There are six missile and rocket launching vehicles and three passenger vehicles. There is also an armored command and control vehicle and a firing car-radar, which registers information upon launch to improve later shots. There is also a meteorological vehicle that tracks weather conditions and a car to transport personnel, which can also be used to carry out maintenance on other vehicles during operations on the ground.
The 6th and 16th GMFs are organizations within EB that use the ASTROS 2020 system. The new and modernized vehicles the program acquired are gradually being delivered to both military facilities. According to Maj. Gen. Barreto, the modernized vehicles, dubbed MK3M, and the new version, MK6, are exactly the same because the old vehicles were modernized with the same technology the new ones come equipped with.