Brazilian Navy Counts Largest Fleet of Amphibious Vehicles in the Southern Hemisphere

The Brazilian Navy acquired amphibious vehicles AAV7A1 under the framework of the 1986 agreement with the U.S. Navy.
Andréa Barretto/Diálogo | 1 April 2019

Capacity Building

The Brazilian Navy uses U.S. amphibious tanks during exercises such as Operation Formosa. (Photo: Alexandre Manfrim, Brazilian Ministry of Defense)

Twenty-three7A1 Assault Amphibious Vehicles (AAV), of the Brazilian Marine Corps (CFN, in Portuguese), will be updated with new communications systems by May 2019. The U.S. vehicles arrived in Brazil in late 2018, and will join the fleet of 26 AAVs that the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) uses since 1986.

With a total of 49 units, MB is the naval force with the most vehicles of this type in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition to the new communications system, the AAVs are scheduled to be fitted with fire extinguisher systems in the second half of 2019.

MB selected the AAV7A1 “thanks to the good performance of these vehicles in their more than 30 years of operation with CFN,” explained CFN Major Carlos Henrique Lussac Pinheiro, deputy commander of the Amphibious Vehicles Battalion, where all MB’s AAVs are stationed. According to the officer, the United States is the only manufacturer of this type of vehicle, and the good relationship between the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and CFN facilitates knowledge exchanges on its use. “There is constant interaction between CFN and USMC, which happens during courses and visits and enables the transfer of know-how to Brazilian service members,” said Maj. Lussac.

The vehicles were designed to execute ship-to-objective maneuvers, through which marines carry out amphibious assaults on a beach to advance deep inland. When AAVs are used in these operations, they offer the advantage of armored protection while service members land.

“These vehicles are mainly used during amphibious landings,” said CFN Colonel Léo Pereira Santos, manager of CFN’s AAVs. “However, they may be used in various tasks, such as during operations to guarantee law and order, as happened in Rio de Janeiro.”

The U.S. amphibious vehicles arrived at Port Itaguaí and were later transferred to the Amphibious Vehicles Battalion, in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo: Brazilian Navy)

After the scheduled upgrades of the Amphibious Vehicle Battalion’s new units, the fleet will be ready to operate at full capacity. According to Maj. Lussac, they may take part in Operation Dragon 2019 (Operação Dragão), one of MB’s largest operations conducted annually around November. Various organizations and naval assets from CFN take part in the exercise that includes AAVs in amphibious landing training. Operation Dragon is the maritime addition to the training marines conduct during Operation Formosa, carried out far from sea.

From old to new

The first AAVs MB acquired, 12 units, arrived in Brazil in 1986. In 1997, MB incorporated 14 other vehicles of the same model.

A new agreement between the Brazilian and U.S. navies enabled the acquisition of 23 other amphibious combat vehicles. According to the 2015 agreement, the vehicles were configured to the Reliability, Availability, Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard (RAM/RS) Program. Compared to the previous versions, improvements to the AAV7A1 RAM/RS model consist of a stronger engine and traction, updated suspension systems, and better mobility. Brazil received two units of this model in 2017, and 21 in 2018.

Although not brand new, the 23 vehicles have zero mileage. The construction process of the AAV7A1 RAM/RS leveraged hulls from AAVs that USMC used. “The manufacturing included the removal of all components from old vehicles, leaving only the hull. From then on, new components (parts) that made the new RAM/RS model were introduced,” said Col. Santos. “The United States also reused old hulls, as did the other countries which chose to acquire AAV RAM/RS.”

MB’s new AAVs serve three purposes: command and control, which counts four units; personnel transport, with 42 units; and rescue, with three units. The command-and-control vehicles transport service members who lead the operation, enabling task execution under armored protection. The personnel transport vehicles are meant to transport service members for all kinds of amphibious landings. Rescue units tow and perform repairs on defective vehicles. The specific characteristics of amphibious vehicles are such that rescue vehicles are essential, as they are the only ones that can conduct logistics maintenance tasks in combat.

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