The vehicle type will replace Brazil’s aging fleet of EE-9 Cascavel six-wheel drive armored vehicles equipped with 90mm guns. The EE-9 was developed and produced in Brazil in the 1970s, but the 15-ton tank-destroying vehicle has become long in the tooth for its original role.
Brazil plans to buy 221 Centauro II vehicles from the Italian consortium CIO, formed by Iveco Defence Vehicles and Oto Melara, as part of a program potentially worth more than $2 billion. The platform is locally known as VBC Cav-MSR for the Portugese name Viatura Blindada de Combate de Cavalaria–Média Sobre Rodas.
The 30-ton Centauro II is armed with a 120mm, 45-caliber smoothbore main gun. It can use NATO-standard ammunition currently employed by main battle tanks, including advanced airburst programmable munitions. Powered by an Iveco Vector 8V Euro III diesel fuel engine providing 533 kilowatts of power (about 715 horsepower), it can reach a speed of 105 kph (65 mph) on roads, and has a range exceeding 800 kilometers at 70 kph (43 mph).
Brazil plans to initially order 98 Centauro IIs, for delivery within 15 years. The country plans to order the remaining 123 vehicles required by the Army through a follow-on contract, to be signed a few years before the delivery of the initial vehicles is complete.
It’s unclear how much the first contract is worth, which is expected to be signed Dec. 5. However, Emilio Meneses, an independent defense analyst based in Santiago, Chile, estimates that, “with the value of the first contract near to $1 billion, the follow-on order will be surely worth an equivalent to $1.1 billion at current prices and currency value.”
The selection of the Centauro II didn’t surprise Meneses, who noted Iveco Defence Vehicles has a large footprint in Brazil.
“Its subsidiary, Iveco no Brasil, is producing the 6x6 wheeled, armored personnel carrier VBTP-MSR Guarani, with over 500 vehicles already delivered within plans to procure over 2,000, including variants,” Meneses told Defense News. The Guarani is a new troop transport undergoing production for the Army.
“Brazil led the way in South America in the 1970s, developing and producing the EE-9 Cascavel tank killer and the EE-11 Urutu troop-transport, wheeled, armored vehicles with a common chassis, which were exported to 25 countries around the world,” Meneses added. “The eventual local production of the Centauro II in Brazil and exports of the vehicle to other countries in South America are a real possibility.”
In the meantime, Brazil launched a program to upgrade 201 EE-9s for infantry fire support. The country awarded a contract to local company AKAER Engenharia in July 2022 to upgrade 98 of the vehicles. Each are to receive a new engine, a tower with automated control, air conditioning, replacement of optronics, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ Spike LR anti-tank missile launcher fitted to a turret, a new shooting computer and new sensors.
José Higuera is a Latin America correspondent for Defense News.