Updates on the Philippine Army's VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carrier Purchase

The Philippine Army has purchased armored personnel carriers from an Israeli firm, with the primary platform provided by the Brazilian manufacturer of armored vehicles that the Israeli firm took a partnership with. While the platform itself has already discussed on this website and on our social media outlets several times, this article deals with a detailed information regarding this program.

VBTP-MR Guarani, Armored Personnel Carrier, Philippine Army
The Philippine Army version of the VBTP-MR comes with Ballistic Armored Plates,
protection that is nonexistent in Brazilian variants.
(c) Paulo Roberto Bastos Jr., Tecnologia & Defesa.

In the recent news at the time this article has published, a first batch of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers are apparently on its way to the Philippines, with projected delivery dates being at mid-December 2023 as reported by the Brazilian outlet, with the remaining units under the contract slated for delivery at the first and second half of the year 2024. This comes as the arms restrictions imposed by Germany to Brazil has lifted, allowing the sale to push through.

The first batch, which comes with five units (see image above), has seen on the port of Santos in Brazil's State of São Paulo, getting the Brazilian-made Armored Personnel Carriers embarked onboard a vessel bound to the Philippines with the Port of Manila as its destination, as this gets reported by this same Brazilian outlet. The port of Santos, which is in the State of São Paulo, counts as the largest and also the busiest container port in both Brazil and the entire Latin America area.

Currently, the Philippine Army's Armor 'Pambato' Division has a significant number of armored personnel carriers in its fleet inventory, ranging from the M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers and Infantry Fighting Vehicles armed with Remote-Controlled Weapons Systems and UT-25 unmanned turrets after getting the upgrades from Israel's Elbit Systems Ltd, and wheeled ones such as the GKN Simba Armored Personnel Carriers that is only in operation with the Philippine Army.

The Armored Personnel Carrier acquisition project of the Philippine Army, amounting to Php 2,265,200,000.00 that calls for the purchase of 28 VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, is just one of many deals that the Philippine Army has with Elbit Systems Limited of Israel, the other being the Sabrah Tanks and ATMOS 2000 Self-Propelled Howitzer platforms, both of which packs firepower that the Philippine Army needs for a counterinsurgency scenario.

In this update, we will tackle the arms restrictions that Germany imposed to Brazil that took its toll on the overall contract of providing the Philippines with the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, along with the specific subsystems that Elbit Systems installed onboard the Brazilian-made armored vehicle platforms, and also the report regarding the follow-up order of these units that may count as a potential replacement move for the older GKN Simba and the V-150 Cadillac Gage Commando.

Philippine Army, Elbit Systems Ltd., Arms Embargo, Germany, VBTP-MR Guarani, IVECO Systems, Brazil
Here is the screen grab of an article from Defense Aerospace regarding the German Veto.
Article Source.

Earlier in February, Germany's export control office Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control or BAFA, as abbreviated in German, has blocked the sale of 28 Brazilian-built Guarani 6×6 armored personnel carriers to the Philippines. What enabled the veto to take place is the existence of German-made subcomponents onboard the armored personnel carriers made by Iveco Latin America, which made this move possible from the German side.

The justification pointed out from the time the news reports made regarding the export control block or veto made by the Germans comes from a purported retaliation move they made against Brazil, as the latter outright refuses to provide ammunition that is badly needed in the ongoing conflict in the Eastern Europe, as Ukraine keeps on defending its country against Russian aggression, although some sources points to the country's alleged human rights violations as the cause.

It came to a certain point in time that the Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems Ltd., faced into a dilemma, as its contractual obligations and commitments with the Philippine Army comes at a high risk of getting riddled with delays and fines that have associated with it, so much that the Israeli firm contemplates into getting the Pandur II 8x8 Armored Personnel Carriers instead just to fulfill the firm's contract, while not risking of getting denied for its failure to commit.

It took at least seven (7) months for the German export control authority to lift the arms embargo it imposes to the Brazilian-housed arms manufacturer which it took place on September 27, 2023, enabling them to resume export operations once again to the Philippine Army, giving a sigh of relief to the Israeli defense firm as it ensures that it met the contractual obligations for this acquisition project, while the end-user having an assurance that it will get all the 28 units as intended on-time.

And this is where the delivery status comes now, with the first batch of deliveries taking place on December 2023, with the remaining units getting delivered by next year, complete with Elbit-installed systems and specifications that are currently not available with the Brazilian variants of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carrier. We will delve further down the specifications added on the armored vehicles in the succeeding portion of this article.

VBTP-MR Guarani, Elbit Systems Ltd., Philippine Army, Armor Pambato Division, IVECO Latin America
The Philippine Army variant may come with extra added systems, as provided by Elbit Systems Ltd.
(c) Paulo Roberto Bastos Jr., Tecnologia & Defesa

The version of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carrier that the Philippine Army sets to receive comes with different subsystems and design as compared to the ones currently serving the Brazilian Armed Forces, whereby it comes with added weapons and armor as provided by Elbit Systems Ltd., for the requirements set by the Philippine Army for this acquisition project. These additives give overall improvements on capability for this armored vehicle in terms of firepower and protection.

One of those things mentioned was the weapons load-out of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, whereby it features a remote-controlled weapons system or RCWS that is likely those installed onboard the upgraded M-113 armored personnel carriers that the Philippine Army also has in its fleet of armored vehicles, of which it may come with the usual 12.7x99mm machine gun that the aforementioned M-113s also have, or the 7.62x51mm machine gun like the ones usually carried by troops in the infantry.

Another thing to point out is that the Philippine version of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers also came with an added armor protection composed of ballistic plates that can achieve level 3 protection per the STANAG 4569 standard. The STANAG 4569 standard is just one of many parameters set by NATO under its Standard Agreement, whereby its primary aim comes with interoperability among members, which influences like-minded allied countries outside of the block, such as the Philippines.

At the Level 3 protection level of the STANAG 4569 standard, the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carrier is capable enough to protect infantry and crew onboard against incoming sniper rifle threats with 7.62x51 armor piercing (AP) rounds, aside from the protection against Level 1 and Level 2 threats such as normal rifle (7.62x51mm NATO ball) rounds, and 7.62x51mm API BZ (armor-piercing/incendiary) rounds, respectively. The protections provided increase the survivability of troops needed in combat.

Further adding the list of added specifications is the inclusion of a battle management system and the E-Lynx software-defined radio as provided by Elbit Systems Ltd., for the Philippine variant of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, whereby a battle management system comes as an essential add-on as marketed by the aforementioned Israeli defense firm, coming with a C4ISTAR-oriented network suite that improves tactical coordination.

The E-Lynx software-defined radio is a family of communications suite marketed by Elbit Systems Ltd for real-time relay of commands and tactical maneuvers that may count as a vital and essential component needed onboard an armored personnel carrier like the one that the Philippine Army sets to receive from Brazil through an Israeli firm, as it integrates the armored units of VBTP-MR Guarani APCs to a larger part of the Philippine C4ISTAR network, in which the Philippine military sees it as an essential component.

Overall, the added subsystems on these armored vehicles intended for the Philippine Army comes as an improvement in terms of the armor, weaponry, and technological suites installed within the platform, as this helps the Armor ‘Pambato’ Division manage its units in any strategic maneuvers in combat by transmitting real-time combat environment data for the command-and-control platforms of the Philippine Armed Forces to provide real-time execution of orders, increasing a chance of outrunning the Opposition Force.

VBTP-MR Guarani, Philippine Army, Armored Personnel Carrier, Iveco Latin America, Brazil, Elbit Systems Ltd.
Iveco Latin America produces its VBTP-MR Guarani APCs in production lines like this.
File Image.

According to the reports across multiple outlets, the 28 units ordered by the Philippine Army counts as just a portion of this government-to-government (G2G) package between the Philippine and Israeli governments, whereby the project aims to have an overall number purchased VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers to at least 114 units, sufficiently replacing older wheeled armored personnel carriers within the Armor ‘Pambato’ Division such as the GKN Simba and V150 Cadillac Gage Commando APCs.

In context, the Philippine Army has purchased at least 155 units of V-150 Gage Commando Armored Personnel Carriers from 1975 to 1988 from the United States and at least 150 units of GKN Simba Armored Personnel Carriers from the United Kingdom from 1993 to 1997, based on the information provided by the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute from 1970 to 2022 for armored vehicles that the Philippine Army received.

This means that the Philippine Army may get the chance to get both the V-150 Gage Commando and GKN Simba Armored Personnel Carriers that are in poor condition decommissioned if we take the additional numbers for the acquisition of VBTP-MR Guarani APCs from Brazil via Israel at its face value, as the plans and programs for follow-up orders may get less likely with the Department of National Defense gears itself for investing more resources for external defense, with missiles and artillery systems being the priority for the land service branch.

Just recently, the legislators in the Senate of the Philippines discussed and acknowledged the fact that the Revised AFP Modernization Program’s overall pace has delayed, with several acquisition projects like the Multirole Fighter Jets under Horizon2 still not yet awarded with a contract. And to take note, the Department of Budget and Management or DBM provides a small annual budget of Php 50 Billion for the AFP Modernization, itself not sufficient for the Php 1.8 Trillion funding requirements for Horizon 3 alone.

So with the budgeting concerns and the pace of the entire AFP Modernization Program being delayed, not to mention the government’s attention shifted to external defense posture, that means putting both the Philippine Navy and Air Force in the priority list, the idea of getting additional remaining 86 units of VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers is highly less likely to happen, but this does not mean that such a plan has completely removed out of the picture, as priorities may change from time to time.

Iveco Latin America, Philippine Army, VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 APC, Armored Personnel Carriers
Personnel from Iveco LATAM posed before the VBTP-MR Guarani APCs destined to the Philippine Army.
Image Source.

The Philippine Army’s Armor “Pambato” Division is about to have this new set of Armored Personnel Carrier, purchased by the Department of National Defense from Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd and produced in Brazil by Iveco Latin America to fit by the requirements and specifications set by the land service branch for its Armored Personnel Carrier Acquisition Project. The deliveries from the late 2023 until mid 2024 will help boost the number of armored vehicles serving the Philippine military for its mandated operations.

The delivery of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers to the Philippine Army may help augment its existing armored vehicles, most notably the V-150 Cadillac Gage Commando and GKN Simba APCs, both of which are 4x4 wheeled Armored Personnel Carriers that are still serving the land service branch to this day. And like the upgraded M-113s that the Philippine Armed Forces already have, these new armored vehicles may come with a remote-controlled weapon system (RCWS) turret installed onboard.

This development comes as Germany’s export body lifted the embargo enforced on German components that prevent Brazil from delivering the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers to the Philippine Army, enabling Elbit Systems Ltd to comply to the delivery schedule requirements set for this acquisition project and eventually fulfill its obligations to the Philippine Army without the risk of paying penalties and enforcing undesired decisions that risk the firm’s arms relations with the Philippine military.

And ultimately, the reports for the Philippines to get 86 more copies of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers to meet the so-called 114 copies required have a very remote possibility of even taking place, as the priorities of the leadership within the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are very clear that external defense is an utmost priority, with air defense systems, shore-launched anti-ship missile systems, fighter aircraft, and warships being first on the list.

Overall, the delivery of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers to the Philippine Army is now on its way, complete with additional armored plates and systems upgrade that Elbit Systems Ltd has provided to these units that may help improve not only the numbers and the firepower that these armored vehicles will have to the personnel within the Philippine Armed Forces, but also in real-time communications which is vital to the overall outcome for the troops on the ground, victorious in securing this nation.

(c) 2023 PDA.

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