SANTIAGO, Chile — Argentina has officially declared its aim to buy 156 Guarani armored vehicles produced in Brazil, having signed a letter of intent on Dec. 23, according to an Argentine government release dated Jan. 23.

The agreement, made in Buenos Aires between Argentine Defense Minister Jorge Taiana and Brazilian Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mauro Vieira, took place during an official visit to Argentina’s capital by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The recently elected president was attending a summit of South American heads of state.

The agreement kick-starts direct negotiations, which are expected to lead to the signing of a contract within the first half of 2023.

Other agreements were also signed during da Silva’s stay in the capital city, including one where the Brazilian government will provide financial guarantees and credits for the export of Brazilian-manufactured goods to Argentina, including military equipment. This is seen as key to the potential sale of Guarani vehicles; one of Argentina’s main difficulties when trying to import military hardware is its ability to obtain financial credit.

The six-wheel drive vehicles will fulfill a long-standing requirement to equip the combat component of a mechanized infantry brigade, which includes elements earmarked for eventual deployment abroad with the binational Southern Cross Force. Locally known as Fuerza Cruz del Sur, this Argentine-Chilean military formation was created in 2005 and is made available for peacekeeping deployments under the mandate of the United Nations.

The Guarani is based on a design by Italy’s Iveco Defence Vehicles and was modified to meet the requirements of the Brazilian Army. The armored vehicle weighs about 17 tons. In its basic troop carrier version, it can carry a crew of three plus eight soldiers.

The letter of intent provides details about Argentina’s planned purchase:

  • 120 troop transport vehicles (the Guarani VCBR-TP variant), armed with the 12.7mm SARC REMAX 4 turret.
  • 27 infantry combat vehicles (the Guarani VCBR-CI variant), armed with the 30mm SARC UT30BR2 turret.
  • Nine command post vehicles (the Guarani VCBR-PC variant).

Both of those turrets are remote controlled, and were developed and produced in Brazil by the security and defense firm ARES, a subsidiary of Israeli company Elbit Systems.

Iveco do Brasil produces the Guarani vehicles in Sete Lagoas, in the state of Minas Geraes in the southeast of Brazil. The factory there was inaugurated in 2013 and has since delivered more than 600 Guarani, most for Brazil’s Army but also for the Philippines, Lebanon and Ghana.

The Sete Lagoas location could assemble the vehicles for Argentina, but it’s also possible Argentina will open its own assembly line “to expedite the production and delivery of the vehicles,” according to Humberto Marchioni, who runs Iveco Defense Vehicles for the Latin American region.

Interviewed by local media in Argentina, Marchioni said Iveco facilities at Cordoba in central Argentina “can accommodate a Guarani assembly line.” That is also where the company makes the Cursor 10ENT-C diesel engine used in the Guarani, as well as the chassis for the armored vehicle.

It’s unclear how much the potential order for 156 vehicles will cost. But Emilio Meneses, an independent analyst based in Santiago, estimates the value at no less than $180 million.

José Higuera is a Latin America correspondent for Defense News.

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