About 20 years ago, the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) began operations with its first M109 howitzer version A3. The U.S.-made howitzers are artillery weapons that provide firing support.
In 2018, EB began replacing its M109A3 fleet, dated from the early 2000s, with the M109A5. In March 2018, they received the first four units of the 60 scheduled. In October, a U.S. ship arrived to Paranaguá Port with 56 more units, after a 16-day trip from Florida. “We are still waiting for 32 upgraded vehicles, the M109A5+, which should arrive in the first half of 2019,” said Colonel Rubens Ribeiro Guimarães Junior, doctrine and international affairs section assistant of EB’s 4th Subdivision of the General Staff.
The vehicles are at the Maintenance Park of EB’s 5th Military Region, in Curitiba, Paraná. There, technicians service parts such as engines and the electrical systems, while paying special attention to the weapons system, the howitzer’s main component.
Differences between the A5 and the A5+
When maintenance work comes to an end in early 2019, the M109A5 vehicles will go to the 15th, 27th, and 29th Self-Propelled Artillery groups (GAC AP, in Portuguese). The other 32 howitzers M109A5+, scheduled for a 2019 delivery, will go to the Southern Military Command’s 3rd and 5th GAC AP.
The main differences between the A5 and the A5+ models lie in their technological features. “This includes the projectile launching speed gauge, which increases shooting accuracy,” said EB Colonel Sanzio Ricardo Rocha Gusmão, head of the General Staff’s Artillery Division of EB’s 5th Division. This instrument, which only exists in the A5+ version, is a sensor that can determine the speed at which a projectile is launched. The information is crucial for calculations to adjust the aim.
Another feature that contributes to the A5+’s aim is the fire control and direction system. The automated system calculates the different variables to determine which elevation and angle to use. These calculations are done manually on the A5 version.
The A5+ vehicles will also have a positioning and navigation system equipped with GPS and other navigation features independent of satellites. “However, the A5 does not have these tools. Should the logistics crew require geo-located navigation, they must carry additional equipment in the vehicle,” Col. Guimarães Jr. said.
BAE Systems, the original howitzer manufacturer, is upgrading the A5 to the A5+ in the United States. The upgrades are being made at EB’s request. “The acquisition of the A5+ model is a first step toward acquiring new technology in the future,” said Col. Sanzio.
Field artillery ammunition support vehicles
The U.S. cargo ship also carried 40 M992A2 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles. The armored vehicles serve to resupply the M109 during an operation and are used jointly.
The 40 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles will also be serviced for maintenance. “These vehicles are in good working condition, but they will have their systems checked (loading, cooling, engine, transmission, bearings, etc.), the oil changed, and damaged components replaced,” said Col. Guimarães Jr. Both vehicle models are part of the military equipment the U.S. military donated through the Foreign Military Sales program.