Defense Industry in Brazil’s Economic Growth

Americas Now

Brazil’s been under the global spotlight in recent months–no doubt for its hosting of the World Cup and the next Olympics. Its economy has also been a major focus as of late. But little known are its efforts to modernize its armed forces and boost its military exports.

For now, Brazil’s defense minister says his country is a growing geopolitical power trying to find its place in the world. CCTV’s Stephen Gibbs reports.

Defense Industry in Brazil's Economic Growth

Defense Industry in Brazil's Economic Growth

Brazil's been under the global spotlight in recent months--no doubt for its hosting of the World Cup and the next Olympics. Its economy has also been a major focus as of late. But little known are its efforts to modernize its armed forces and boost its military exports. For now, Brazil's defense minister says his country is a growing geopolitical power trying to find its place in the world. CCTV’s Stephen Gibbs reports.

Brazil has long prided itself on one simple fact. This is a country with no enemies. The last time Brazil went to war with its neighbors was more than 140 years ago. But Brazil is changing. It is now the world’s 7th biggest economy. Its leaders see it as firmly on the path towards becoming a first world country. And what do all first world countries have in common Military strength.

Celso Amorim, Brazilian Defense Minister, says: “The fact that Brazil has a bigger presence in world affairs also makes it more likely that some of our actions or decisions may not please some of our partners. And although we want to keep all of these relations peaceful, we cannot be sure.”

And Brazil has plenty to defend. This is a continental-sized country with 10 borders, and recently discovered oil.

Carlos Afonso, Vice-Admiral of Brazil Defense Industry Association, says: “We need it for the future generations. As soon as we discovered Petroleum at 200 miles away of our coast, we don’t want pirates coming up jumping on the platform and asking for something. We have to produce goods for the next generation. We have to protect them. We don’t have any enemy now. We are peaceful we don’t want to attack no one. We only don’t want that nobody comes to attack us.”

So Brazil is both becoming a major customer for foreign military hardware, and rebuilding its own defense industry. It is now the tenth biggest defense spender in the world.

And the Defense minister is the man everybody wants to speak to when he appears at arms fairs like the one in Brasilia selling home-developed equipment. On display here are the same weapons and machinery you might find in similar exhibits in the U.S. and Europe, although some with a Brazilian twist.

Brazil has two selling points when it comes to arms. Often its equipment is cheaper than t the world’s best known brands. And in a region where there is still plenty of the U.S. It the advantage, for some, that it is not American.

Brazil is proud of the fact that it hasn’t been involved in a significant war for almost 150 years. But does that make it more difficult to sell defense equipment?

One issue is that hardly any of this equipment has ever been battle tested –a disadvantage as this designer of drone technology concedes.

Ramiro Brazil from the Flight Technologies says: “The fact that we are not involved in armed conflicts does hinder us a bit. But we cannot use conflict to boost our industry. We have to develop our own technologies to meet our country’s needs aside from conflict.”

This huge project, outside Rio, is where the country intends to build its first nuclear powered submarine. The sub is based on a French design but will be entirely built in Brazil. Once this project is completed, Brazil will join a very exclusive club of countries that manufacture their own nuclear submarine. It is perhaps no coincidence that the others: the United States, Russia, Britain, France are the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — a group Brazil has long been lobbying to join. But proponents of the project say it is practicality- not pride – that is driving this.

Celso Amorim, Brazilian Defense Minister, says: “If we have the longest Atlantic coast in the world and if you want to ensure that there should be no piracy you must be able to have the proper means.”

The country has also just signed a 4.5 billion dollar deal to buy 36 fighter jets from Swedish manufacturer Saab. Recent allegations of spying by the US against President Rousseff apparently help persuaded her not to buy American equipment. Brazil’s message is just because it doesn’t have an enemy, doesn’t mean it can’t join that club.