Brazilian multinational Odebrecht has announced a strategic move into a suddenly crowded market for systems integrators in the Latin American aerospace and defence sector.

The 67-year-old engineering and construction specialist, which posted 53 billion reals ($33.4 billion) in annual revenue last year, is forming a new subsidiary called Odebrecht Defence and Technology.

Until now, Odebrecht has focused on the energy market, including oil and gas, biofuels and petrochemicals, amassing an industrial presence in 20 countries with 120,000 employees.

Prompting the move was the company's acquisition in early April of Brazilian aerospace firm Mectron, maker of the MAA-1 Piranha short-range air-to-air missile, MAR-1 anti-radiation missile and the SCP-01 radar for the Aermacchi/Embraer AMX fighter.

Oderbrecht also formed a joint venture with EADS defence subsidiary Cassidian in 2010.

Odebrecht will join several companies vying for new Brazilian defence contracts calling for the skills of an integrator of advanced systems in aerospace, defence and surveillance.

Brazilian military officials have outlined new projects to encircle the company with integrated surveillance networks covering air, land and sea.

Odebrecht is now poised to challenge Embraer's role as the country's largest aerospace and defence company.

Meanwhile, Israel Aerospace Industries has signed a partnership with Brazil's Synergy Group called EAE Aerospace Solutions.

The Israeli firm has focused on building its presence in the Brazilian aerospace market for more than a decade.

The goal with EAE is to build the manufacturing and engineering base to develop new products tailored for the Brazilian market.

In separate news, Mectron officials have confirmed development of the MAR-1 missile is on track, with first delivery to the Brazilian air force scheduled by the end of the year.

The 266kg (585lb) missile is being integrated on the Brazilian air force's A-1 AMX fleet to strike air defence radars.

Source: Flight International