Embraer awarded 1st phase of $6B cordon

Aug. 28, 2012 at 6:19 PM
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SAO PAULO, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Brazilian aviation and defense manufacturer Embraer has won the contract for the first phase of 10,000-mile border security cordon aimed at beating organized crime, drug and people smuggling and poaching in the forests.

The Brazilian army announced its selection of Embraer after several weeks of speculation over the final shape of the border protection and surveillance network.

Embraer will lead a consortium that includes Savis Tecnologica and Orbisat Industria, both of which are controlled by the defense manufacturer.

Later phases of the security project, Sistema Integrado de Monitoramento de Fronteiras, also called SISFRON, will likely include international partners.

SISFRON was initially estimated to cost $4 billion but officials revealed a revised figure, $6 billion, as they announced Embraer's successful bid.

When fully integrated, SISFRON will include land radar and other ground sensors, unmanned air vehicles, communications, command and control and other elements. The whole range of equipment earmarked means the cordon may be more than 100 miles deep inside Brazilian territory along most of the planned cordon.

The system will involve security coverage of 11 Brazilian border states and international frontiers with 10 neighboring countries.

The initial phase of the project, likely to be worth $400 million, will cover an area under the Brazilian Western Military Command, officials said.

SISFRON is the second major defense competition in Brazil. The first, for the purchase of multirole jet fighters for the Brazilian air force under an FX-2 program, is still being decided by President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil embarked on a major overhaul of its defense infrastructure as it began developing major offshore reserves of hydrocarbons. Brazil's economic prosperity also led to an influx of economic migrants from neighboring countries, drug and human trafficking, organized crime and poaching of resources in the Amazon.

SISFRON is an ambitious plan to secure Brazil against a whole range of security threats and is likely to lead to procurement of advanced hardware and software from a range of international sources.

Unmanned airborne craft, ground vehicles, river and naval craft and advanced monitoring and observation systems are included in the plan but it's not clear if Embraer can deliver everything that will be required or if it needs to enter into partnerships or if Embraer is likely to be challenged by foreign bidders.

Embraer has bought stakes or partnered with companies that include C4I specialist Atech, radar maker Orbisat, satellite house Visiona and mini-UAV maker Santos Lab.

Embraer also has set up a joint venture with Israel's Elbit Systems to build UAVs for border patrols and other tasks for Brazilian security forces.

Embraer signed up with Telebras telecommunications company to develop capacity in satellite communications.

Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim, who reviewed the pilot project recently, didn't outline details of how the total outlay would be spent over the next 10 years.

As with most Brazilian defense and security projects, Brazil has set sights on acquiring and developing new technologies that can adapt to its model and then market its own products abroad.

Embraer Chief Executive Officer Luiz Carlos Aguiar indicated the company's bid for the first phase of the security cordon fulfilled its ambition to diversify from aviation and conventional defense production into high-tech security products and services.

"It's a very complex project," Aguiar said, indicating implementation of the full project could lead to Embraer exploring new areas of expertise.

Brazil's diverse geography, tough conditions in the Amazon region and a long maritime border are among challenges faced by Embraer and other bidders.

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