December 22, 2021No Comments

The ASTROS II System and the AV-TM 300: assuring Deterrence through Precision Strike by the Brazilian Army

By: André L. V. C. Carvalho.

ASTROS II MK6 launches an AV-TM 300 missile
Image Source: Courtesy of AVIBRAS,

At the beginning of the 21st century, Brazil began to design a grand strategy that aimed to establish the country as a great power or an indispensable actor in international relations. This imposed on Brazil the need to restructure its armed forces in order to make them better equipped, trained, educated and with great firepower, long-range and lethality to support its sovereign decisions at the international level. Therefore, in the early 2010s, the Brazilian army resumed its process of military transformation.

The transformation process currently under development within the Brazilian Army highlighted a series of capabilities the ground force needs to implement by 2030. Amongst those, the army highlighted the importance of developing robust capabilities to assure extensive extra regional deterrence. The act of deterrence essentially manifests itself in a multi-domain environment, and it is up to the ground force – especially the artillery - to contribute through a long-range and high precision fire support system. Thus, the Army Command determined the elaboration of the ASTROS Strategic Program, with the main objective of providing the ground force with aforementioned firepower capability. 

The program was named after the ASTROS II (Artillery Saturation Rocket System), a universal surface-to-surface rocket and missile artillery system for area saturation that began to be produced in 1983, by a partnership between the Brazilian Army and the Brazilian company Avibras. The ASTROS – in contrast to its main competitor, the MLRS HIMARS – is the only rocket artillery system with a modular launcher, which allows the firing of ammunitions of different calibres (ballistic rockets, guided ammunitions and cruise missiles) by simply changing the rocket's containers. The rocket artillery system aims to launch a considerable number of rockets, in a short period, against targets of considerable dimensions, being considered as an "Area Saturation System", essential for implementing credible deterrent strategies. 

The program includes in its scope R&D projects, procurement, and launcher vehicles modernisation. The works involve the conception, development and supply of the tactical cruise missile (MTC), guided ammunitions, new launching and remunitioning MK-6 vehicles, command and control, meteorological and ground support vehicles, engineering design, test flights, and low emissivity topcoats for the reduction of thermal infrared emissions from the platforms. 

The R&D projects are among the most promising given the development of the Brazilian tactical cruise missile, the AV-TM 300 (or MTC-300), the first in South America. The project also includes the development of guided rocket ammunitions such as the SS-40G. Currently, the development of both in under the auspices of the company AVIBRAS – that already developed a whole ‘family’ of rockets for the system – and carried out in partnership with the Brazilian Army. 

Notwithstanding, the development of the tactical cruise missile stands out for being the first Brazilian indigenous jet-powered cruise missile and the first of the category to be deployed in South America, in addition to being a cheaper option to the American MLRS ATACMS. Cruise missiles are aerial devices that autonomously transport a payload over long distances, being capable of hitting targets with precision in the order of tens of meters. Thus, it requires advanced technologies, especially in the areas of navigation systems, control, guidance, aeronautics and combustion.

The AV-TM 300 started to be developed in order to meet the concepts of selective lethality and protection, delivering a high technological value defence product. In order to assure one of the strategic goals of the Brazilian National Defence Strategy (extra regional deterrence), the missile is designed to have a range of up to 300km. In this way, when combined with the strategic mobility capability of the ASTROS System, the AV-TM 300 can cover any country in the region, ensuring not only national deterrence and area denial, but also extended deterrence to allied nations in South America. 

Regarding its main technical characteristics, the missile is equipped with a central computer that combines a microeletromechanical system (MEMS) integrated with an active GPS navigation device that continuously provides positioning information for course correction, enabling the first adjustment manoeuvres to insert the missile into the cruise route and the execution of the final aiming manoeuvres over the target. All of this provides the missile a precision capacity of 30 meters. The missile can also carry a single 200kg highly explosive warhead, equipped with the RDX explosive, known to be more powerful than the TNT. As an option, the warhead can also carry the same 200 kg of cluster munitions, with 64 sub munitions for exclusive use on anti-personnel or anti-tank targets. The AV-TM 300 uses solid-fuel rockets for launching, and a turbo-jet during subsonic cruise flight. Last, but not least, the missile is capable of flying in low altitudes during the cruise phase, reducing the possibility of detection by enemy radars.

Its developers consider it a multipurpose missile/system, used for the acquisition of strategic targets, area interdiction and asymmetric warfare. Nonetheless, even though the AV-TM 300 stands out in the global market due to its level of reach, it still has a relevant limiting factor: the absence of a final guidance system (seeker). Since the “guidance” package of the missile is a combination of GPS/INS and terrain matching, this brings a tactical consequence that is the AV-TM 300 being a missile to be only used against fixed targets, such as antennas, air and naval bases, refineries, ports, and industrial and military installations. 

In this way, since Brazil has a coastline of 7,491 Km, the AV-TM 300 would be ineffective in coastal and littoral defence against naval targets. Brazil has three strategic points that would benefit from the missile deployment to assure A2/AD: the Amazon River mouth, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, and the extensive line of petroleum platforms. Coastal defence scenarios are still the result of simulations, however, the process of implementing the guidance system is already underway, which has no scheduled date for implementation.

In general, taking into account the geopolitical and strategic relevance that Brazil could assume in the international scenario, the ASTROS system and the AV-TM 300 essentially contribute to the readiness and effectiveness of the ground force, endowing it with combat power capable of reducing the concentration of hostile forces near the land borders. Moreover, they assure the main objectives of robust deterrence capabilities and means through which the country can project power. 

May 17, 20212 Comments

India’s impact on US Indo-Pacific Grand Strategy

By István Hagyó 

In the recent decades India has become a major power in the Indo-Pacific region which has increased its importance for the United States. China, the second largest economy, aims to establish hegemony in competition with the United States. This provides an opportunity both for the United States and India to find a common path and deepen their partnership to balance China. However, India’s intentions are still unclear and even more sophisticated, due to the changing dynamics of the Indo-Pacific. Will a traditionally neutral India be willing to support the United States in its effort to counter China?  

Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy proved that Asia became the top priority of US Foreign Policy during his Administration. However, under Trump, the focus was reduced by merging East Asia with South Asia, calling the whole region as Indo-Pacific. President Trump’s February 2020 visit to India and the subsequent signing of Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement in October 2020 allowing the two states to exchange geospatial intelligence are symbolic events in highlighting India’s rising status in the U.S. Foreign Policy strategy. Additionally, the two states are engaged in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue along with Japan and Australia. The Dialogue has become a significant regional cooperation platform led by the United States. 

In late March this year, the Biden Administration continued the effort to engage with India by sending the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to visit India. During his first Asian tripbesides visiting America’s two closest allies Japan and South Korea, he also visited India, a symbolic step towards highlighting India’sincreased importance for the United States. Biden is generally viewed as an India-friendly politician, particularly due to his contribution towards the United States-India Civil Nuclear Deal in 2008. Additionally, the fact that his administration comprises of a higher percentage of Indian Americans than any other administration, in particular the vice-presidential pick Kamala Harris, carries a great symbolic significance. Biden considers the bilateral relations with India as the “defining relationship” of the 21st century. This makes more sense as China is seeking to become a regional hegemon, particularly through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) mega-project giving Beijing greater influence and military and geopolitical advantage in the region. The BRI mega-project would allow Chinese investments in several participating, vulnerable countries surrounding India, such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka and India’s traditional adversary, Pakistan. China is developing the ports in these countries which will allow it to gain access to the Indian Ocean. This raises concerns in New Delhi of geopolitical encirclement, thereby giving the United States a great opportunity to engage with India. 

However, the purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system by India raises concern in the United States. New Delhi was a traditional partner of the Soviet Union during the Cold War and afterwards, with Russia. It is unlikely that India will give up these ties on America’s insistence. As India’s External Affairs Minister,Subrahmanyam Jaishankar argues, India has no intention of fully aligning either with Russia or the United States, rather will continue to be neutral as it has been for the last 70 years. Further, he points out: “This is a time for us to engage America, manage China, reassure Russia, bring Japan into play … and expand traditional constituencies of support. … A longstanding trilateral with Russia and China coexists now with one involving the U.S. and Japan”. However, the former Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Arun Singh has a different vision on India’s role, where he says, “In the framework for China, U.S. sees India as a very important partner. I think that would be ... the defining parameter for the relationship going ahead.” Narendra Modi the Indian Prime Minister described the basic pillars of the bilateral relations: “India stands for "freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce and adherence to international law." Certainly, India welcomes these efforts and see the potential in it, but will consider all options and act in accordance with its national interest. 

It is uncertain how long India can remain neutral in a dynamically changing regional landscape. Will the United States be willing to accept India’s military ties to Russia as it engages with India to balance China? It is hard to answer which military alliance is more important for India, but it is certain that the United States is making serious efforts to engage India to counter China. The U.S Secretary of Defence stated, “'s clear that the importance of this partnership (US-India), and its impact [on] the international rules-based order will only grow in the years ahead." While the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh described the future of the US-India relations: “keen to work together to realize the full potential of the India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership." With four consecutive US Administrations in favor and bipartisan support for the US-India relations, it can be assumed that the bilateral relations will remain stabIe for the time-being. In case that India decides to align fully with the United States, the balance in the Indo-Pacific region will be reshaped and will accordingly prompt shift in policies on both sides, between the US-led group of countries and the China-led one.