The Brazilian government must rely on a number of crack military units to maintain control of its borders. Realizing that Brazil could be an open door to international and local terrorists, the military has organized outfits able to deal with such threats and protect the State. This has resulted in one of the most efficient armies in Latin America, and yet one of the least known outside the region. The Army fields several brigades, to include 1 Parachute, 1 Spec Ops, 1 Air Assault Light Infantry, 1 light infantry for peacekeeping Ops and Urban Warfare, 1 Frontier, 2 armored, 4 mechanized, 5 jungle, 10 motorized, 4 divisional artillery, 2 construction engineer, 1 air defense, and 1 army aviation.
Small arms include M964 and variants (Imbel FAL), Imbel MD2 & MD97 rifles. Special operators make intensive use of the M4 carbine along with FAMAS, G3A3 and G3SG1 rifles. Taurus is now distributing the Tavor TAR-21 to the Frontier Bde. Submachine guns include the Taurus M972 (Beretta M-12), and the MP5 range. Snipers have access to the Barrett M82A1, HK PSG-1, M700 and ACGL rifles. Elite outfits use the HK21E and the Minimi-Para Mk-2. The MAG 60-20 is distributed to all the services.
Due to the nature of the country, which is covered in most part by the dense Amazonian rain forest, many of the military units are trained and geared for jungle warfare. The Centro de Instrução de Guerra na Selva (Selva – CIGS) operates from Manaus, sharing installations with the Amazon’s Military Command (Comando Militar da Amazônia). The Center prepares leaders in the conduction of small unit tactics. The Jungle Warfare Training develops in three phases: Jungle Survival, Skill Development, and Jungle Operations.
The Jungle Warfare Training Center prepares operators for the jungle, hunter, and frontier infantry outfits. These are particularly adapted and skilled to operate in the Amazon’s environment. The Jungle Infantry units include the 1ª Brigada de Infantaria de Selva (Bda.IS) also known as Brigada Lobo D’Almada, the 2nd Bda.IS or Brigada Ararigbóia, the 7th Bda.IS, the 10th Bda.IS, the 16th Bda.IS, the 17th Bda.IS or Brigada Príncipe da Beira, and the 23rd Bda.IS.
There are several other outfits that appear to operate independently from the brigade structure, including the 1st Jungle Infantry Battalion (1º Batalhão de Infantaria de Selva [BIS]- Batalhão Amazonas), the 2º BIS – Batalhão Pedro Teixeira, the 4º BIS – Batalhão Plácido de Castro and the 8º BIS.
The Jungle Brigades and Battalions deploy in Destacamentos de Operações de Selva (DOS), which are small 12-men units providing long distance reconnaissance, surveillance and patrols along the borders. The DOS are inspired in their training, organization and doctrine on the A Teams of the USSF, with two officers and 10 enlisted NCOs. The preferred weapons include the legendary Para-FAL, and MAG MGs.
The Hunter Battalions include the 19º Batalhão de Caçadores (BC), the 23rd BC, the 24th BC, the 25th BC, and the 28th BC.
The light infantry also lists the Frontier Guard Command, which operates from Amapá, and the 18th Frontier Infantry Brigade, operating from Mato Grosso. In the same State of Mato Grosso we find the 2nd and 17th Frontier Infantry Battalions. In addition, Special Frontier Platoons have been established to monitor the frontier; each PFE is formed with 50 men.
The very harsh Caatinga Region is home of the elite 72° Batalhão de Infantaria Motorizado (or 72° BIMtz), better known as Batalhão General Victorino Carneiro Monteiro. Its HQ is at Petrolina, Pernambuco, having its origins with the 2nd Riflemen Company/35th Inf Bn. (Feira de Santana)/10th Motorized Infantry Brigade. The company operated independently as a specialized outfit since 1975. It became the elite 72° BIMtz in 1982, when the Army realized the need for a larger unit to operate in this vast and difficult area. The battalion deployed to Angola as part of the UN forces between September 1995 and April 1996.
Mountain warfare is the dominium of the 11o Batalhão de Infantaria de Montanha (11o BI Mth), from São João Del Rei, Minas Gerais. The lineage of the 11th Mountain Battalion can be traced to 1888, with the establishment of the 28o BI PARDO – RS, as part of the so-called “Canudos” campaign.
The Vila Militar de Rio de Janeiro holds the colors of the Parachute Infantry Brigade (Brigada de Infantaria Pára-quedistado Exército Brasileiro). The Paras, along with the Air Assault Brigade, is part of the Rapid Action Force (Força de Ação Rápida). Its tasks include tracking, pursuing and apprehending dangerous criminals, poachers and smugglers.
The Parachute Brigade has its origins within the Parachute School established on December 26, 1945. A year before, the government had dispatched 47 soldiers for airborne training in the United States. By 1953 there was a pressing need to establish what was denominated Nucleus of the Airborne Division. By 1969 the Army decided to emphasize smaller, more mobile units, and replaced the Division with the Parachute Brigade in 1971, and this is renamed the Parachute Infantry Brigade in 1985.
Today, the Para Brigade comprises a HHC Company, the 25th Batalhão de Infantaria Pára-quedistas (BIP-Infantry Parachute Battalion), 26th BIP, and 27th BIP, supported by a Pathfinders Company (20ª Companhia de Presursores Pára-quedistas), a Support and maintenance Parachute Battalion (Batalhão de Dobragem, Manuntenção de Pára-quedas e Suprimento pelo Ar), a Field Artillery Battery, and an AAA Battery. There is also a Cavalry Reconnaissance Unit assigned to this outfit, and other support elements.
The 25th Batalhão de Infantaria Pára-quedistas (BIP-Infantry Parachute Battalion) – or 25o BI Pqdt as it is known in Brazil – has its origins with the School Infantry Company raised on 26 December 1945, as part of the Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment at Colina Longa, Deodoro, Rio de Janeiro. Then, on September 5, 1952, the Army expanded the unit to become Airborne Infantry Battalion (Batalhão de Infantaria Aeroterrestre), and in October of 1956 the unit is named the Batalhão Santos Dumont, and in 1961 this becomes the Santos Dumont Regiment. This unit becomes the 3rd Parachute Infantry Battalion, but by November 7, 1973, it becomes the 25th Parachute Infantry Battalion, with three Parachute Riflemen companies (1ª, 2ª & 3ª Companhias de Fuzileiros Pára-quedistas), a Command and Services Company, and a HHC group.
The 26o BI Pqdt and the 27º BI Pqdt. also trace their lineage to Decree Nr 49.863, dated January 11, 1961, establishing the Regimento Santos Dumont. The 26th and 27th Parachute Infantry Battalions are officially established in 1973. The 27º BI Pqdt is based at Sâo Goçnaho.
The 1º Esquadrão de Cavalaria Pára-quedista (1st Parachute Cavalry Squadron) is established on December 21, 1981, with Celso Carlos Antunes as its first commander. According to the Brazilian Army, the unit is today equipped with locally-built Jaracara armored reconnaissance vehicles. In 1993, the Parachute Cavalry expands with the 2nd Parachute Cavalry Platoon. By late-2005, the unit counts with 3 platoons (Pelotões de Cavalaria Pára-quedista), an Administrative Base, and a Command Platoon to meet its tasks.
The 20th Parachute Logistical Battalion remains as the main support unit of the brigade.