U.S. Armored Vehicles: Reliable Tools for the Brazilian Armed Forces

The Brazilian Army received its first U.S.-made armored vehicles in the 1960s. Today, they make up a fleet of more than 700 units.
Andréa Barretto/Diálogo | 16 January 2018

International Relations

M113 BR armored vehicles during Operation Steel (Operação Aço). The 5th Armored Cavalry Brigade conducted the exercise in September 2017, to wrap up a year of training for its troops. (Photo: Brazilian Army)

The M113 armored vehicles of the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) launched one of the largest urban operations the Brazilian Armed Forces ever undertook—Operation St. Francis (Operação São Francisco), Conducted in Rio de Janeiro in 2014, its objective was to contain the violence that stemmed from drug trafficking in 15 slums.

The M113 family of vehicles is among the nearly 700 U.S.-made armored vehicles the EB uses in its urban operations, border areas, and troop-training exercises. The Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese), also uses those vehicles, and just like the Army, drove them through the alleyways of Rio de Janeiro in security operations to support the police. “The M113 has performed quite well in security operations in Rio de Janeiro, as it’s a vehicle that’s easier to drive and maneuver through narrow areas,” said Colonel Everton Pacheco da Silva, chief of the Armored Vehicles Division of EB’s Matériel Directorate.

The M113 is an armored personnel carrier. The vehicles were developed to transport infantry and cavalry groups in armored military units. The Brazilian Armed Forces acquired the first M113 vehicles in the 1960s through a military agreement with the United States. In the 1970s, EB received donated M41 armored combat light tanks.

At the start of the 21st century, a new wave of U.S.-made armored vehicles reached Brazil. Among those were 91 M60 A3 vehicles. In 2016, more than 50 vehicles of various types arrived: 34 model M577 A2 vehicles, 12 model M113 A2 vehicles, and four M88 A1 armored recovery vehicles. All were the result of a donation the U.S. government made through its Foreign Military Sales program.

Along with that shipment, Brazil received two M109 A5 self-propelled howitzers. The howitzers are part of the current contract, which provides for the delivery of 40 vehicles in total. Of these, three will be exclusively dedicated to troop-training and five will have their parts and frames used for maintenance work. The United States is upgrading the 32 remaining howitzers, which should be ready by 2019.

The upgraded M109 A5 will sport new vehicle navigation and fire control equipment, including GPS, accelerometers, and muzzle velocity radar and sensors—to be known as the M109 A5+ BR version. “We acquired these armored vehicles because we shifted the makeup of our armored brigades and the need arose to use more equipment,” Col. Everton said.

Operations focused on the south

A CLAnf unit the Brazilian Marine Corps received in June 2017. The vehicle is part of a 23-unit set the EB purchased from the United States. (Photo: Brazilian Navy)

The lot of 32 M109 A5+ BR howitzers, set to arrive in 2019, will be used in operations of the 5th Armored Cavalry and 6th Armored Infantry Brigades, which are part of EB’s Southern Military Command. More than 70 percent of continuous-track armored vehicles in EB’s fleet—including all vehicles manufactured in the United States—are deployed in military organizations in southern Brazil. However, some model M60 armored vehicles based at the Western Military Command, are frequently used in border security operations such as Operation Agate (Operação Ágata) and Operation Southern Border (Operação Fronteira Sul).

According to Col. Everton, there are no continuous-track armored vehicles in the Amazon region or in northeastern Brazil as the terrain in those areas is not suitable for these units. “In the south and west, the terrain is flatter, there are better highways, and the countryside is clearer—free from obstacles that could impede transit,” he noted.

Armored vehicles in the Marine Corps

Within MB, the Marine Corps use continuous-track armored vehicles for its operations. In addition to the U.S.-made M113 units, Brazilian marines also use model AAV-7A1 continuous-track amphibious vehicles (CLAnf, in Portuguese).

The latest vehicles arrived mid-2017. To date, two of the 23 vehicles purchased under an MB-U.S. Navy agreement were delivered.

“A continuous-track amphibious vehicle is the most typical asset for a marine corps force because it can maneuver on land and at sea. That characteristic allows the Navy to project its power on land,” said Brazilian Marine Corps Major General Carlos Chagas, commander of Admiral Sylvio de Camargo Training Center, in an interview with Brazilian Ministry of Defense Television in July 2017. “That’s why this equipment is essential not only for amphibious operations but also in certain ground operations,” Maj. Gen. Chagas said.

With the 23 armored vehicles due to arrive by the end of 2018, the Brazilian Marine Corps will have 49 operational CLAnf units in its fleet. The fleet will be the largest of all marine troops in South America.

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