SANTIAGO, Chile — The Brazilian Army has written up requirements for its next eight-wheel drive armored reconnaissance vehicle, following approval for the service to buy up to 221 of the platforms — each armed with either a 105mm or 120mm gun — according to sources and an Army document seen by Defense News.
The VBC Cav-MSR procurement effort replaces another program known as VBR-MR.
The Army’s General Staff is now awaiting approval to publish the rules and schedule for industry bids. Companies that have already expressed interest include Italy’s Iveco-Oto Melara Consortium, which is offering the Centauro II; General Dynamics European Land Systems, with the eight-wheel drive LAV 700; and China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (otherwise known as NORINCO), with its ST1.
The program is meant to replace part of the Army’s fleet of EE-9 Cascavel six-wheel drive armored reconnaissance vehicles, which are armed with 90mm guns. It’s unclear how much money the government authorized for the effort.
Sources with knowledge of Brazil’s vehicle procurement efforts spoke to Defense News about the Army’s progress thus far, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
An official Army bulletin dated May 20 stated that the ordinance EME/C Ex No. 716, signed on May 9 by the service’s chief of staff, Gen. Valério Stumpf, is now in force and defines the operational requirements for the new armored vehicle.
Under plans made in the last decade, the EE-9s were to be replaced by a heavier eight-wheel drive version of Iveco Brasil’s six-wheel drive Guarani, also known as VBR-MR (or Viatura Blindada de Reconhecimento—Média Sobre Rodas in Portuguese, and loosely translated to English as Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle on Wheels).
Development for the VBR-MR began in 2014, with production samples to be delivered for testing at the start of 2020. But financial problems slowed down the program, and amid a lack of resources, the development process and ability to fit a locally made tower with a 105mm gun on the wheeled vehicle became impossible. The program was ultimately suspended in 2017.
Even after considering a 90mm gun as the VBR-MR’s main weapon, the Army decided in 2019 to keep its original 105mm requirement, without ruling out 120mm as an option, and to seek a foreign solution, which would be selected through an international competition.
What will happen to the EE-9?
The armored reconnaissance vehicle Brazil eventually selects is to replace half of the approximately 400-strong EE-9 fleet in service with the Army. Brazil has acquired about 600 Cascavels from the 1970s through the 1980s.
Meanwhile, up to 201 of the EE-9s that remain in service will undergo refurbishment and modernization by Força Terrestre, a consortium led by local firm Akaer and also made up 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 upgraded EE-9, with assurances Brazil would hire it to modernize at least 98 of the vehicles.
The upgrade package for the EE-9s includes a new, indigenous turret to be developed by Akaer to replace the original one, keeping the 90mm gun but adding Spike anti-tank missiles from Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems as well as fitting on new sensors and optronic systems for targeting. The vehicles will also get more powerful and fuel-efficient engines as part of a completely new locomotive system.
More than 1,000 EE-9s have been exported around the world, with several hundred still in service.
José Higuera is the South America correspondent for Defense News, covering South American and Latin American affairs.