The armies of Brazil and Paraguay have a long history of mutual cooperation, but Operation Paraná, which trained close to 500 service members from both nations September 18th–22nd, was a first-ever experience. “The idea for Operation Paraná came out of a meeting in June of last year  between the General Staff of the Brazilian Army (EB, per its Portuguese acronym) and the General Staff of the Paraguayan Army,” said EB Major General Marcos de Sá Affonso da Costa, commander of the 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (15ª Bda Inf Mec, per its Portuguese designation), the unit that carried out Operation Paraná. “The relationship between these two armed forces goes way back, but we had never done a mission with troops on the ground. So, our intent was to give them that experience, with the aim of bringing both armies closer,” he said.
Since 2014, the 15ª Bda Inf Mec, headquartered in Cascavel, in western Paraná, has been leading the implementation project and developing the doctrine of the Mechanized Infantry Brigade. Until then, EB only had light and motorized infantry in which combat troops would march into enemy battlefield. Through mechanization, combat troops can now move around in armored vehicles.
“The mechanized infantry doctrine is being consolidated worldwide, but Paraguay does not yet have these kinds of units,” Maj. Gen. Affonso da Costa explained. As such, Operation Paraná was also the first time that the Paraguayan Army had ever placed its marines in an armed vehicle during a combat operation.
The training for Brazil was an opportunity to carry out unprecedented exercises with their new medium-wheeled Guarani Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). The Guarani is an APC model the EB adopted as part of its project to swap motorized into mechanized infantries. The 15ª Bda Inf Mec owns 77 Guarani units.
According to Maj. Gen. Affonso da Costa, the use of APC during combat operations provides several advantages. They reduce the number of casualties, as service members are better protected from gunfire, and increase troop mobility, allowing for strategic deployments throughout the country. “Unlike other vehicles, APC are not just a means of transport but a weapons system. As such, the use of mechanized infantry increases our firepower. Those three big areas — security, mobility, and firepower — expand the Army’s operational capacity,” said Maj. Gen. Affonso da Costa.
Officers of the General Staff and infantry platoon of Paraguay arrived in Brazil on September 17th. In line with the preparation activities, service members of both nations received uniformed training such as weapons handling, communications, and how to enter and exit the APC.
On September 19th, combat-simulation activities began. The general staff of a mechanized infantry battalion — the Combined Force Paraná, made up of officers from both armies — planned the exercise. Execution of the group’s chosen offensives rested with a mechanized marine company composed of a Paraguayan and two Brazilian platoons. In all, the company had 19 Guarani vehicles.
The first mission consisted of marching into combat to establish contact with the enemy. “Upon encountering the enemy force, the troops carried out an attack to take the town of Diamante do Sul,” said Major Rodrigo César de Oliveira Ribeiro, press officer for 15ª Bda Inf Mec. “A squad from the Mechanized Infantry Squadron represented the opposing force, which was equipped with two older APC, the Urutu and Cascavel,” Maj. Rodrigo Ribeiro added.
Next, troops conducted new movements while having to cope with unexpected situations along the way. The operation came to an end on September 22nd, with the company’s attack demonstration with live ammunition from the Guarani APC.
“All of our objectives were achieved, both diplomatic —tightening our bonds with the Paraguayan Army— and tactical, because we were able to see that the joint use of troops in a combat context is completely viable,” Maj. Gen. Affonso da Costa said. “The Paraguayans’ doctrinal foundations are similar to ours, and our cultural closeness also facilitates this work.”
The acquisition of Guarani APC is part of the EB’s strategic program of the same name. Equipped with technology developed by the Army Technology Center, these vehicles are designed for military attack operations as well as defense, patrol, and peacekeeping missions.
The first lot of vehicles was delivered in 2014. The contract should extend to around 2040. By 2016, EB had tested nearly 100 experimental units to identify necessary changes and adjustments. In 2017, the industrial production of the vehicles began. Currently, EB operates nearly 230 Guarani APC in various military units.