From April 4th to 7th, government officials and military leaders from 81 nations from different continents gathered for the largest defense and security expo in Latin America - the 11th edition of LAAD Defence & Security. The biannual event occupied five pavilions at Riocentro in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
“LAAD Defence & Security 2017 will be characterized by the consolidation of Brazil’s defense industry promotion, with commercial transactions in this sector as main topics,” stated Brazilian Minister of Defense Raul Jungmann, at the opening ceremony.
The minister assured the continuity of the Brazilian Armed Forces’ strategic plans, such as the Integrated Border Monitoring System (SISFRON, per its Portuguese acronym), the Submarine Development Program, and the KC-390 transport plane project, even in the face of budgetary restraints. The amount budgeted for defense investments in 2017 was about $4.8 billion, but about $3 billion of that was cut. “[These projects] are key to ensuring the capacity of the Brazilian Armed Forces so they can fulfill their constitutional mission of national defense, border protection, maritime security in Brazilian waters, and the defense of Brazilian airspace,” Minister Jungmann said.
Exhibitors representing 450 brands from 36 different countries attended the 2017 edition of LAAD, as well as 183 official delegates, including defense ministers and military officials from 81 nations. During the expo, nearly 2,000 meetings were held between the delegations and the exhibitors, according to information provided by the event’s press office.
The Brazilian Ministry of Defense took the opportunity to meet with representatives from the U.S. Embassy and U.S Southern Command, as well as with U.S. manufacturing firms, before the expo’s official opening ceremony. On April 3rd, the Defense Industry Dialogue II was held in Rio de Janeiro, with both governments reaffirming their mutual interest in promoting cooperation in the defense industry. U.S. Ambassador Peter Michael McKinley spoke about the importance of the forum: “This is an occasion to better integrate the industry into our strong defense relationship as it already exists, identifying opportunities for specific kinds of partnerships, removing trade barriers, and promoting trade and investment.” The next meeting is scheduled for October, in Washington, D.C.
On the first day of LAAD, Brazil and the United States provided an example of what that partnership could mean. Embraer, a Brazilian company, and Rockwell Collins, an American firm, both active in the aerospace sector, announced their agreement on joint project development and market sharing.
The event had an accelerated pace for all delegations. “We had an intense agenda at the expo, and we’ll be coming back home with plenty of operational solutions for the Argentine Armed Forces,” said Walter Alberto Ceballos, secretary of Logistics and Emergency Coordination for the Argentine Ministry of Defense, on his nation’s involvement in LAAD. “We help meetings with various countries, but we didn’t reach any agreements. Here, the discussions were focused on the future and to learn about new defense technologies,” he stated.
One of the Nicaraguan delegates, Marine Corps Colonel Jeraldo Fornos, also spoke about the future. “In Central and South America we have a common enemy, which is drug trafficking. At this expo, we were able to take note of some solutions for tackling that issue. Those potential solutions will be carefully studied and analyzed, and may be of use to Nicaragua in the near future,” he stated.
Brigadier General Alirio García Flamenco, deputy director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Salvadoran Armed Force, said that he had found what he was looking for at LAAD. “We came looking for solutions that would have multiple uses for the Salvadoran Armed Forces, and would also support our police operations. We were able to find various types of equipment for that purpose, and we will now analyze those options to follow up with those companies at a later date.”
Especially as it relates to exchanges with Brazilian companies, Colonel José Clavería Guzmán, a Chilean Army attaché to Brazil, noted that “we were able to get information from companies associated with the Brazilian Armed Forces about the equipment and solutions used in SISFRON, and about the Guarani and Astros 2020 armored vehicle projects. Those projects are of great interest to Chile because they are models of development, not only for defense but also for the economy.”
In addition to the gatherings between delegations and exhibitors, the expo was an opportunity for meetings to take place at the companies’ stands, as well as in the area reserved for Brazilian state agencies. For instance, the structure built by the Brazilian Ministry of Defense held more than 10 rooms. Among other engagements, the agenda was filled with dozens of bilateral meetings, including those with neighboring countries such as Colombia, Paraguay, and Chile.
In a conversation between Minister Jungmann and Chilean Minister of Defense José Antonio Gómez Urrutia, they expressed their mutual appreciation for the support that Chile has provided Brazil in the rebuilding of its Antarctic base, and for Brazil’s recent support fighting a wildfire in Chile. They also talked about the possibility of jointly developing defense products and withdrawing troops from the peacekeeping mission in Haiti that Brazil commands, and that Chile has troops involved in.
These talks had been previously scheduled and will resume in the 2+2 meetings, as these meetings between the defense and foreign ministers of both nations are called. The next meeting is scheduled for June when the Chilean defense minister will visit some companies in Brazil’s defense industry.
Brazil and Colombia also sat down face-to-face to follow up on earlier discussions. In a meeting with Minister Jungmann, Colombia’s Deputy Minister of Defense, José Javier Perez Mejía, spoke about the peace process and demobilization in Colombia, as well as Brazil’s involvement in demining operations there.
They also spoke about expanding their partnership on defense issues, a topic that Deputy Minister Perez raised again with Brazilian Secretary of Defense Products Flávio Basílio, on the last day of the expo. “We are in talks about a memorandum of understanding that would enable us to expand business opportunities between our two defense industries,” said Basílio. More meetings are scheduled between Brazil and Colombia in 2017, mainly to address the Colombian peace process, according to information provided by the Brazilian Ministry of Defense.