Brazil's Missile Programs
The potential military applications of Brazil's MECB center around
the Sonda IV and its VLS, which could be used for a ballistic missile.
Sonda IV has a range of 600 kilometers and can carry a 500-kilogram
payload, and is therefore subject to MTCR restrictions. The transformation
of the Sonda IV into an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
would require several more successful launches and a major technological
leap, especially in payload shielding and guidance.
Many of the factors that drove Brazil's nuclear programs also have
driven the space and missile programs. In the mid-1980s, Brazil
was concerned with Argentina's Condor II ballistic missile program,
which received substantial technological assistance from Europe
and funding from Iraq. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however,
Argentina dismantled its Condor missile program and removed that
rationale for Brazil's MECB. Brazil's quest for advanced technology
drives much of the space and ballistic missile programs. For example,
Brazilian authorities considered the April 1990 purchase of follow-on
satellites for the Brazilian Satellite (Brasilsat) program an opportunity
to receive valuable technology. The Brazilian government specifically
required that the transfer of satellite technology be a precondition
for the purchase of the satellites. In sum, an attempt by Brazil
to produce a ballistic missile is driven primarily by a search for
technological autonomy, although political, security,
motives are also important.
The government of Brazil has stated that it supports the peaceful
applications of space technology and denies any intention of developing
a ballistic missile. It argues that the Sonda IV is only a satellite
launcher and lacks the required accuracy for military use. At least
one missile expert, Steven M. Flank, has argued that if Brazil had
intended to develop a ballistic missile it would not have chosen
the Sonda technological path. He notes, for example, that the VLS
employed in the Sondas are solid-propellant systems, which are not
as effective as liquid-propellants for launching ballistic missiles.
armed forces have even greater control over missile production
than they do over the MECB. Following a meeting in June 1986 among
six companies, the Armed Forces General Staff (EMFA), and the three
military ministries, missile production was placed under the authority
of the Armed Forces Joint Command (Comando Geral das Forças
Armadas--CMFA). All missile manufacturers are required to submit
programs to the CMFA, which evaluates them and awards contracts.
The most important Brazilian company involved in incipient missile
technology is Avibrás Aerospace Industry, Inc. (Avibrás
Indústria Aeroespacial S.A.--Avibrás). The Astros
II, a multiple rocket launcher, is the most profitable weapon produced
by Avibrás. It can launch rockets of different caliber: SS-30
rockets up to thirty kilometers;
SS-40 rockets, forty kilometers; and SS-60 rockets, sixty kilometers.
In the 1980s, Avibrás sold an estimated sixty-six Astros
II artillery systems to Iraq and an unspecified number to Saudi
Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. Total sales of the Astros II between
1982 and 1987 reached US$1 billion.
In the late 1980s, Avibrás was involved in the development
of the SS-150 (based on the Astros-II), the SS-300, and the SS-1000
(based largely on the Sonda rockets). All Avibrás programs
were "put on hold" in January 1990, when the company filed
for bankruptcy. Its employee roster had fallen from 6,000 to 900,
and the company had US$90 million Dollars
worth of unsold rockets. Although Avibrás improved its financial
health in the early 1990s, by the end of 1995 the SS-150 and the
SS-300 had not passed the initial stages of development, and the
SS-1000 had not even been designed.
In the mid-1980s, the armed forces became frustrated by delays
in the development of self-guided missiles. Following the June 1986
meeting between private industry and the military, a consensus was
reached that standardization in missile production was necessary.
As a result, a new firm, Orbital Aerospace Systems, Inc. (Órbita
Sistemas Aerospaciais S.A.), was created in February 1987 to coordinate
Brazil's missile program. Órbita was tasked with developing
guided missiles, rockets, and satellite
launchers for civilian applications. Órbita, however, collapsed
in the early 1990s because of inadequate funding, technological
constraints, and restrictions placed by the United States and other
MTCR signatories on the transfer of sensitive technology to Brazil.
By mid-1997, therefore, Brazil could be placed in a fourth tier
of ballistic missile producers. The first tier includes the United
States and Russia, which have ICBMs. The second comprises nations
such as France, China, Britain, and Israel, which have ballistic
missiles of more limited range and accuracy. A third group includes
developing countries, such as Iraq, India, and South Africa, which
have advanced missile programs with modest ranges. A fourth category
includes countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, and
South Korea, which have artillery rockets and embryonic ballistic
missile capabilities. Brazil's capabilities clearly pale in comparison
with those of the first two tiers and are even modest when compared
with those in the third tier. Nonetheless, its programs indicate
that it aspires to a third- and perhaps a second-tier status. Finally,
it should be noted that Brazil's space and missile capabilities
are sophisticated in relation to those of most developing nations.
In summary, Brazil's ballistic missile program, which faces formidable
constraints, is largely in the preplanning stages and not engaged
in serious research and development.
* * *
The main source of information about Brazilian science is Fernando
de Azevedo's As ciências no Brasil , a collection of essays
written by leading Brazilian scientists in the early 1950s. Simon
Schwartzman's A Space for Science: The Development of the Scientific
Community in Brazil is a sociological interpretation of the institutionalization
of scientific and technological activities in the country. It is
based on extensive interviews with leading scientists and a review
of written sources. Science and Technology in Brazil by Schwartzman
et al discusses the need for a strategic role by science and technology
A few key institutions have been the subject of detailed studies
that have illuminated the social, economic, and political climate
of the times. Noteworthy are those on the Ouro Prêto School
of Mines (Escola de Minas de Ouro Prêto) in the nineteenth
century and on the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in the early twentieth
century. Most institutional histories, however, are just laudatory
tales of names and achievements and have little analytical content.
Works on the Brazilian Association for the Progress of Sciences
appeared in 1987 and 1990 by Ana Maria Fernandes and Antônio
José Botelho, respectively. The association's journals, Ciência
e Cultura and Ciência Hoje , are important repositories of
historical and contemporary information.
The ambitious project of technological development since the 1970s
has generated several analytical and comparative studies from economic
and political perspectives. Emanuel Alder has compared the computer
and nuclear policies in Brazil with those in Argentina, linking
their different results with the ideologies and social groups behind
these policies. For the broad policies, see the writings of Fábio
Stefano Erber; for the computer industry, see Paulo Bastos Tigre.
The main source for publications on the economic dimensions of scientific
and technological policies in Brazil is the Applied Economic Research
Institute (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada--IPEA),
an agency of Brazil's Ministry of Planning. The ministry also publishes
Revista de Pesquisa e Planejamento Econômico . The Brazilian
Science and Technology Policy Project, conducted by the Getúlio
Vargas Foundation in São Paulo in 1993, has published about
forty studies on different aspects of Brazilian science and technology
through the Editora da Fundação Getúlio Vargas
in Rio de Janeiro.
A series of working papers resulted from three science and technology
policy studies carried out in Brazil in 1993 and 1994, with the
support of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the World Bank,
the Inter-American Development Bank, and the UNDP (United Nations
Development Programme). One of the studies was carried out at the
University of Campinas under the coordination of Luciano G. Coutinho.
It focused on the conditions and possibilities for strengthening
Brazil's industrial competitiveness. A second study under the coordination
of Francisco Biato was a joint project of the Ministry of Science
and Technology, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, and the UNDP.
The third science and technology study was conducted at the Getúlio
Vargas Foundation under the coordination of Simon Schwartzman, with
the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the World
Bank. The program of science and technology at the University of
São Paulo has published a series of books on the management
of science and technology research units and related subjects, with
a special emphasis on the private sector.
Brazil's nuclear programs have received considerable academic and
journalistic attention. The most insightful analysis is provided
by Etel Solingen in her various journal articles and in her book,
Industrial Policy, Technology, and International Bargaining: Designing
Nuclear Industries in Argentina and Brazil . Some of the most vociferous
critics of Brazil's nuclear development are Brazilians themselves.
Luiz Pinguelli Rosa, a nuclear scientist who was a major opponent
of the Brazilian-German nuclear accord, criticizes the role of Brazil's
military in nuclear development in A política nuclear e o
caminho das armas atômicas . Frederico Füllgraf provides
critical and historical analysis in A bomba pacífica: O Brasil
e a corrida nuclear . Tania Malheiros, a journalist, offers a provocative
account of Brazil's nuclear program in Brazil, a bomba oculta: O
programa nuclear brasileiro .
Brazil's space program has received much less attention than its
nuclear programs. Steven M. Flank provides an excellent comparative
analysis in his Ph.D. dissertation "Reconstructing Rockets:
The Politics of Developing Military Technology in Brazil, India,
and Israel." Brian G. Chow examines the difficulties in attaining
space-launching capabilities in An Evolutionary Approach to Space
Launch Commercialization . Péricles Gasparini Alves assesses
Brazil's space program in "Access to Outer Space Technologies:
Implications for International Security." (For further information
and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of April 1997