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Brazilian air force seeks to join armed UAV club

A senior Brazilian air force commander says his country should join the growing list of countries using armed unmanned air systems for routine operations.

In an official news release titled the “strategic vision of the [Brazilian air force]", Air Force Brig Fernando Almeida Riomar, commander of Brazil’s Third Air Force, notes that the country has used UAS in reconnaissance missions.

“In the future,” Riomar adds in the 23 June news release, “we want to follow the trend of first world countries performing actions with weapons employment.”

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Brazil’s air force operates two types of UAVs – the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 and 900 – from Santa Maria air base in Rio Grande do Sul, a state along the southern border with Uruguay.

Elbit Systems has a local subsidiary in Brazil, AEL Sistemas, which has partnered with two Brazilian companies – Embraer and Avibras – to form a UAV manufacturing joint venture called Harpia Sistemas.

So far, no Hermes 450 or 900 operator has acknowledged weaponising the Israeli-designed UAVs.

But US-made UAVs, such as the General Atomics Aeronautics Systems MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, have been weaponised for more than a decade.

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It was previously US policy to prohibit transfers of armed UAVs to foreign countries. But the State Department lifted the ban in a policy revision announced last February.

Besides the Hermes operations, the Brazilian army also operates Horus FT-100 mini-UAVs supplied by local company Flight Tech. The army also has experimented with the Falcao UAV developed by Avibras.

(Images of Hermes 450 and 900 courtesy of Elbit Systems.)

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