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Brazil prepares for international competition for armed reconnaissance vehicle

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SANTIAGO, Chile – The Brazilian Army has written requirements for its next four-wheel drive armored reconnaissance vehicle, after approving service to purchase up to 221 platforms — each armed with either a 105mm or 120mm cannon — according to sources and an Army document seen by Defense News.

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The procurement effort of VBC Cav-MSR is replacing another program known as VBR-MR.

The Army’s General Staff is now awaiting approval for the publication of the rules and schedule for the industry’s bidding. Among the companies that have already expressed interest is the Italian Iveco-Oto Melara consortium, which is showing the Centauro II. General Dynamics European Land Systems, with LAV 700 8×8 LAV derivative; and China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (also known as NORINCO), with ST1.

The program is intended to replace part of the army’s fleet of six-propelled armored reconnaissance vehicles EE-9 Cascavel, armed with 90-mm guns. It is unclear how much money the government has allowed for this effort.

Sources familiar with the auto-purchasing effort in Brazil have spoken to Defense News about the military’s progress so far, speaking on the condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak to the press.

An official Army bulletin dated May 20 stated that Decree EME/C Ex No. 716, signed May 9 by the Chief of Service Staff, General Valerio Stumpf, is now in effect and outlines the operational requirements for the new armored vehicle.

Under plans in the past decade, the EE-9s were to be replaced by a heavier eight-wheeled version of the Iveco Brasil Guarani four-wheel drive, also known as the VBR-MR (or Viatura Blindada de Reconhecimento – Média Sobre Rodas in Portuguese, loosely translated as English as a wheeled armored reconnaissance vehicle).

Development of the VBR-MR began in 2014, with production samples delivered for testing at the beginning of 2020. But financial problems slowed down the program, and amid a lack of resources, the development process and the ability to fit a home-made turret it became impossible to use a 105-mm gun on a wheeled vehicle. The program was eventually suspended in 2017.

Even after considering the 90 mm caliber pistol as the main weapon of the VBR-MR, the army in 2019 decided to keep its original requirements of 105 mm, without excluding 120 mm as an option, and look for a foreign solution, which will be selected through an international competition.

What will happen to EE-9?

The armored reconnaissance vehicle of Brazil’s ultimate choice is to replace half of the Army’s 400-strong EE-9 fleet in service. Brazil acquired about 600 cascavelles from the 1970s through the 1980s.

Meanwhile, up to 201 EE-9s still in service will undergo refurbishment and modernization by Força Terrestre, a consortium led by local Akaer and also comprised of Universal Engenharia and Opto Space and Defense. In early May, the group was awarded a $14.5 million contract to produce two prototypes of the updated EE-9, with assurances that Brazil will lease it to upgrade at least 98 vehicles.

The upgrade package for the EE-9s includes a new indigenous turret developed by Akaer to replace the original gun, retaining the 90mm cannon with the addition of Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems as well as fitting them to new sensors and electronic targeting systems. The vehicles will also get more powerful, fuel-efficient engines as part of an all-new locomotive system.

More than 1,000 EE-9s have been exported worldwide, and several hundred are still in service.

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