Brazil has just purchased 250 German Leopard 1 A5 tanks, which will be used by the Army mainly along the country's 16.000 kilometers (10,000 miles) of land and fluvial borders, thus reinforcing its dissuasive capacity in the event of foreign attacks. The program is also part of the National Defense Strategy, NDS, approved last December by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The 42-ton tanks with a cannon capable of firing at a distance of four kilometers (2.5 miles) and with a unit cost of half a million US dollars, should begin arriving in Brazil in three months and the first batch will be dispatched to Santa Maria in the southern most state of Rio Grande do Sul.
"The Leopard 1 A5 will be the backbone of the Brazilian Army, a unit which will give new dimension to Brazil's armoured combat vehicles boosting our dissuasive powers," according to the Juiz de Fora Federal University strategic studies center.
Brazil currently has 40-ton Leopard 1 A1 tanks that will be reassigned once the A5 are refurbished in the country. Negotiations for the purchase were started back in 2006 and a few are already in Brazil for training and trial purposes.
The NDS program is based on the investment of US$ 15 billion in the next few years to reequip Brazilian armed forces including the building of the country's first nuclear submarine with French technical aid, and the purchase of 24 fighter-bombers for the Air Force.
The financial crisis has slowed the disbursement of funds but the Senate is scheduled to begin addressing the legal framework for much of this investment.
The Brazilian Army recently presented a report warning of the "emergency" situation of the force since much of its equipment is "unusable or out of service. The report recommends investing 2 billion US dollars in the next few years.
Brazil in the seventies and eighties had established a formidable arms and military hardware industry to supply the third world, but with the return of democracy the government ceased to support it.
However President Lula considers that re-launching a strong military industry with technological research is essential if Brazil is to continue playing a leading role in world affairs.
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