Military Review

Latin American weapons dump

Latin American weapons dumpContinent countries continue to purchase obsolete Tanks and airplanes

After the end of the Cold War, the armed forces of most European countries of NATO shifted from “army against army” to classical guerrilla warfare in preparation for the classic wars. This is evidenced by a radical reduction in the number of tanks and artillery systems, a significant reduction in combat aircraft and ships. On the other hand, armored personnel carriers and armored cars with enhanced mine protection, multi-purpose helicopters, landing ships built on the basis of civilian ferries were purchased.

If in Europe such a reorientation began only about 20 years ago, then the Latin American armies always focused primarily on this type of warfare. The principal difference is that the Western armies are going to conduct counter-guerrilla wars on foreign territory, while the Latin American will always and will conduct them in their own countries. Classical wars between the states of this part of the world, as a rule, are hampered for purely geographical reasons. Thus, in South America, almost all of the interstate borders fall either on the almost impassable selva of the Amazon and Orinoco basins, or on the more impassable Andes.

Perhaps for precisely these reasons, from the point of view of the technical equipment of the armed forces of Latin American countries, they traditionally represented a “dump” of obsolete Western (to a lesser extent - Soviet) weapons. After the end of the Cold War, the situation has not changed in quality terms, only the range of the “landfill” has expanded a bit, since much more equipment, and quite modern, has been written off from the Western Armed Forces. Russia is practically the only supplier to Latin America of weapons, China is gradually joining it, and both of these countries are ready to sell weapon to anyone. Because of this, there are such interesting moments as, for example, the destruction of 1995 in February by Ecuadorians with the help of Igla's two Peruvian Su-22 attack aircraft purchased in Russia by Peru back in the USSR.


Economically and demographically, the country confidently ranks first in Latin America. Moreover, it is assigned to the conditional BRIC group, which means its claim to a global role. The state has a highly developed industry, including a very powerful military-industrial complex, is an exporter of weapons. The Brazilian Astros MLRS, Tukano attack planes, training aircraft, and AEW airplanes (even European countries buy them) enjoy considerable popularity beyond its borders.

At the same time, however, in military construction, the country is pursuing a rather strange policy, which can be called “conservation of backwardness”. The large number of personnel of the Brazilian armed forces technologically remain the “scrap metal dump”, and the “scrap” is being purchased at the present time. Extremely outdated Leopard-1 tanks were acquired in Germany and Belgium (although a better Osorio tank was created in Brazil itself), the same outdated F-5 fighter jets were purchased in Jordan (in addition to the existing aircraft of the same type previously from USA). For the aircraft carrier Clemenceau (renamed São Paulo) acquired in France, Kuwait bought even more outdated A-4 ground attack aircraft.

The relative exception is the purchase in the UK of three frigates of the Broadsworth type, in France - the 12 of the Mirage-2000 fighters (however, both of the earliest modifications), and in Russia - six attack helicopters Mi-35 and 112 of the MANPADS " Needle ”(it is supposed to buy an additional quantity of“ Eagle ”and the licensed production of the Russian ZRPK“ Pantsir-С1 ”). The competition for the purchase of 12 truly new fighters canceled due to budget constraints. These restrictions, apparently, and dictate such a strange policy. In addition, the borders with militarily strong Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru pass through the Amazon jungle, where it is impossible to use ground-based equipment. And Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina are even weaker than Brazil. But in this case, isn't it easier to buy nothing at all than to buy scrap metal?

Most attention is paid to the development of underwater fleet. Improved submarines of the project 209/1400 were adopted, and statements are regularly made about the intention to begin the construction of submarines (moreover, on the basis of diesel submarines). But this does not change the overall picture. The Armed Forces of Brazil continue to be an insignificant amount that is completely inconsistent with the country's global claims (unless, of course, there really are). The existence of such claims may be evidenced by the Navy construction program until 2030 (six submarines, 20 submarines, two aircraft carriers, 30 destroyers and frigates, four UDC), but its feasibility is very doubtful.


In terms of military construction, Chile is the complete opposite of Brazil. Not having obvious geopolitical ambitions (even within South America), this country has in recent years strengthened its armed forces radically, and with a focus on waging classical war.

Thus, in Germany, 140 tanks Leopard-2А4 and 170 BMP Marder were acquired, in the USA and the Netherlands 46 of F-16А / В / С / D fighters, in France - the two newest Submarines of the Scorpen type and DVKD Foods ”, in Great Britain and the Netherlands - eight frigates of the“ Norfolk ”,“ Broadsworth ”,“ Jacob Van Heemskerk ”and“ Karel Doorman ”types, in Germany and Israel - seven rocket boats. As a result, in the aggregate combat potential of the armed forces of this country, in just a few years, they took the first place in Latin America. It should be noted that from a geopolitical point of view, such efforts by Santiago seem even somewhat redundant, their reason is not completely clear (at least for the time being).


If Brazil’s military-technical policy can be called “conservation of backwardness”, then in Argentina, in fact, there is a degradation of the Armed Forces. After the defeat in the Falklands war, the country practically did not acquire any modern weapons and even as outdated as Brazil. Some exceptions are several submarines, destroyers and frigates purchased in Germany in the 80-ies, but today they should be considered obsolete. The country's air forces do not have fighters not only of the 4, but even of the 3 generation. Here the contrast with the neighboring Republic of Chile is especially noticeable, from which only the Andes now protect Argentina, and it is quite difficult for the troops to pass through them. The state of the Argentine Armed Forces was discussed in more detail in the article “Islands of Contention”.


The armed forces of Mexico, apparently, can be considered the perfect personification of the Latin American army. Very significant in terms of the number of personnel (280 thousand, while, for example, Chile has about 60 thousand), they do not have tanks, SAU, MLRS, submarines. The Air Force has only nine F-5 combat aircraft, the Navy has four old Knox type frigates, two Israeli-built rocket boats and more than a single unit with any missiles (more than a hundred patrol ships and boats).

Thus, the Mexican Armed Forces are incapable of waging a classical war even against a very mediocre army. Moreover, as the current situation shows, they also can’t wage a counter-guerrilla war, since the drug mafia takes complete control of an increasingly large part of the country's territory. Mexico's northern cities have become world record holders in the number of killings. In general, the death toll at the hands of the Mexican drug mafia over the past decade is comparable to the number of victims of civil wars in Iraq and Syria. This is starting to create real tension even for the United States, which forced the American command to deploy both armored divisions on the border with Mexico, as well as four brigades (one infantry, one artillery, one army aviation and one air defense).


Back in the Cold War era, Peru was one of three Latin American countries that acquired part of the armament in the USSR, while maintaining military-technical cooperation with Western states. This policy continued in the post-Soviet period. Due to this, the combat potential of the Peruvian armed forces in terms of conducting a classic war remains fairly high (by Latin American standards). Thus, in addition to 12 fighters, the Mirage-2000 fighters in Russia and Belarus purchased the 21 fighter MiG-29 (now 20 left) and 18 Su-25 attack aircraft, the latter were successfully used as fighters to fight the light aircraft of the drug mafia. In Nicaragua, Mi-24 helicopters were purchased.

The country has a rather large submarine fleet (eight submarines of the 209 / 1200 project), eight relatively new Lupo frigates were acquired in Italy. Peru remains one of the three countries of the world (the other two are the United States and Russia), in the Navy of which there are cruiser-class ships. In this case we are talking about the ship of the Dutch construction of the 30-ies, however, as a result of the modernization of the armed PKR "Otomat". The renewal of the tank fleet has been postponed so far, although it was supposed to replace the outdated Soviet T-55 with the Chinese VT-1. However, this contract was blocked by Ukraine, which refused to supply engines for these tanks. Details so strange stories still obscured by obscurity.

During the war with Ecuador in 1995, the Air Force of Peru, despite significant quantitative and qualitative superiority over Ecuadorian, proved to be extremely mediocre, having suffered significant losses (10 aircraft and helicopters). Nevertheless, thanks to the actions of the ground forces, Peru won the war. In addition, the Peruvian army in 80 – 90-ies achieved an outstanding victory in the anti-guerrilla war over the very strong Maoist Sendero Luminoso grouping. In general, the armed forces of Peru are today among the three strongest in Latin America.


State policy is very similar to the Brazilian "conservation of backwardness", which in this case is more justified, given the very modest financial possibilities of this country. Even in recent years, Ecuador has been buying fighters "Mirage-5" in Venezuela, and in South Africa - "Chita" ("Mirage-F1"). Interestingly, while in the war with Peru, Ecuadorian fighters shot down two Su-22 without any loss on their part. At the end of 90, the country reached reconciliation with Peru, but ten years later found itself in a state of confrontation with Colombia, becoming an ally of Chavez Venezuela. Interestingly, in terms of the conduct of the classical war, the armed forces of Ecuador have some superiority over the armed forces of Colombia, and in all three areas - on land, in the air, at sea.


Venezuela became the second Latin American country after Chile, which in recent years has sharply increased its potential for waging classical war (despite the fact that it was previously quite high by local standards). At the same time, unlike Chile, the reasons for building up are obvious and are ideological in nature. Keeping AMX-30 tanks and F-16 fighters (21, three of them in storage) as part of the aircraft, Chavez purchased T-72B (92 units), Msta (not less than four) tanks and 2СXNNXX (23) tanks in Russia , BMP-17 (ordered by 3), BTR-123A (not less than 80), MLRS BM-114 (not less than 21), S-24 (125 divisions) and Thor, MANPADS "Igla-S", Mi helicopters -11 (at least 35), fighter-bombers Su-10 (30). Acquisition of the S-24V, Smarch MLRS and 300 submarines is possible. In the case of the implementation of these ideas, Venezuela will bypass Chile and will become the most militarily strong country in Latin America. However, if Chavez leaves (and the likelihood of such an outcome is higher), massive arms purchases in Russia will end immediately, and the weapons already acquired will probably not be paid for.


This country is militarily similar to Mexico: it has very large armed forces in terms of the number of personnel, which are almost completely oriented towards the conduct of the anti-guerrilla war. They have been waging such a war for a long time and with limited success against the drug mafia and left-wing militants from the FARC organization. Their potential for waging a classic war is extremely limited and almost never updated. The Colombian air forces do not have tanks (although plans for the purchase in Germany of outdated Leopards-1А5), SAU, MRLS, all 30 2 fighter jets (Kfir and Mirage-5) are published in the Air Force, so they are even weaker than the Sun Ecuador. And with the armed forces of Venezuela in general there is no data for comparison. In the event of a war with these countries even separately, especially on two fronts (this is unlikely, but not excluded), Colombia is doomed to defeat, unless it receives direct support from the United States.


This state along with Argentina represents an example of the catastrophic degradation of the armed forces, which is explained by the loss of the sponsor in the person of the USSR. Venezuela and China are not yet ready to replace him in this role. The situation is somewhat facilitated by the island position of Cuba. Thanks to this, the only conceivable potential adversary of the country remains the United States, for which, however, it is easier and cheaper to wait for the internal decay of the Cuban regime than to organize aggression against it.

Military construction in the rest of Latin America is of no interest because of their extreme military weakness, with the complete absence of the ability to overcome it.

Left turn will not be

The lack of external ambitions (at least outside the continent) and the limited financial resources conserve the military backwardness of the countries of Latin America. Exceptions in the face of Chile and Venezuela can not cancel the general trend.

The situation could have been changed by a radical left turn in most Latin American countries. Such a turn did take place: a few years ago, the phenomenon of “popular socialism” emerged on the continent, which was built not by violent seizure of power, as in Russia and several Asian countries, and not by imposing it from outside, as in Eastern Europe, but by the democratic will of the population . However, the radicalism of the left turn in most countries proved to be politically insufficient (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay) or was not provided with sufficient resources for the development of the Armed Forces (Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador). The coincidence of desires and opportunities occurred only in Venezuela, however, and it also acquires a significant part of weapons in Russia on credit. Apparently, the “left wave” has already begun to decline, the creation in Latin America of a new “socialist community” that is ready to challenge the United States (including militarily) will not take place.

In the future, a change in the situation is possible penetration into the region of China, which can seriously help the local left not from mythical ideological kinship, but in order to gain access to natural resources and create problems for the United States. The implementation of such a scenario is almost guaranteed, the only question is the speed and radical nature of Beijing’s actions. The latter also determines how strong the military component of Chinese penetration will be.

A very special situation will emerge if some of the countries of Latin America are under the actual control of the drug mafia (including the authorities and security forces), which have significant financial resources that allow them to acquire modern weapons. Especially noteworthy is that Mexico has the greatest chance of becoming such a country. In this case, the United States for the first time in a century and a half will receive a real military threat on its own border. Under certain circumstances, it is quite possible bow of the drug mafia and the left radical

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    CARBON 5 March 2013 16: 52
    Chavez purchased in Russia the T-72B tanks (92 units), the Msta self-propelled guns (no less than four) and 2C23 (17), BMP-3 (123 ordered), BTR-80A (no less than 114), BMZ-21 MLRS ( at least 24), S-125 air defense systems (11 divisions) and Tor, Igla-S MANPADS, Mi-35 helicopters (at least 10), Su-30 fighter-bombers (24).

    But what about the money for a mountain of weapons transferred to Venezuela. Do we really have our own fitter Mechnikov, who would shout: "But money ahead!"
    1. ShturmKGB
      ShturmKGB 5 March 2013 17: 34
      Venezuela is sorry, or rather Chavez ... The American bourgeoisie will still capture Venezuelan oil ...
  2. Victor
    Victor 5 March 2013 16: 57
    Solid and high-quality article. Without extra water, everything on the topic. The Latinos were never distinguished by a serious state organization, and even if they achieved something, then very soon, due to internal contradictions, they lost. Hence the state of their aircraft. The most organized power among the Latins for many years is the drug mafia.
    But without Colonel Chages, there really is little that shines in Venezuela. It’s regrettable, but a fact.
    1. Vladimirets
      Vladimirets 5 March 2013 20: 31
      Quote: Victor
      The Latinos were never distinguished by a serious state organization, and even if they achieved something, then very soon, due to internal contradictions, they lost. Hence the state of their aircraft.

      Summarizing, we can say that South America consists of several Georgians.
      1. APASUS
        APASUS 5 March 2013 22: 12
        Quote: Vladimirets
        Summarizing, we can say that South America consists of several Georgians.

        Here, and most likely the United States will try to push one of them a little to a military conflict! Which can dramatically increase arms purchases, and in particular from the United States itself.
        And there are all prerequisites for this!
  3. Galinanp
    Galinanp 5 March 2013 16: 59
    In the current situation of growing confrontation with the Anglo-Saxons, Russia needs to regain its military presence in Cuba to begin at least with the restoration (modern analogue) of the former Soviet tracking station, in exchange for the modernization of the Cuban army. Amerikos will be happy.
  4. Phase
    Phase 5 March 2013 19: 05
    The countries of Latin America are really solving mainly the tasks of counter-guerrilla warfare (read - the preservation of the ruling regimes). Indeed, there are no geopolitical contradictions between the research institutes. I only remember the curious "Football War" between El Salvador and Gorduras in 1969, when, because of the loss of a football match, these countries were fighting for 6 days!Футбольная_война

    The last armed conflict in which fighters of the Second World War fought, and from both sides.
  5. Mikhail3
    Mikhail3 5 March 2013 19: 09
    In the event of a global military conflict, which only the lazy experts and the military do not warn about now, a systemic degradation of the planet's industry will occur. The armies of the most developed countries annihilate in battles with each other, causing enormous damage to the industrial potential of their opponents. The high-tech industry is the most modern weapon, so it will be hit in all imaginable ways. The "winners" remaining in the arena will find themselves without trained people and, most importantly, without the ability to repair and replenish arsenals. Computer hard drives are manufactured by TWO factories around the planet ...
    In these conditions, the one who will have an abundance of pre-computer weapons, which is ten times easier to repair and equip, will be a huge gain. Latinos can tear to pieces, trying to buy otrebenki, which all the same could not be used, and even contain no power. And they can safely maintain defense sufficiency, waiting until it bangs ....
  6. pinecone
    pinecone 5 March 2013 21: 05
    With the exception of Cuba, all Latin American countries are members of the Organization of American States, which is a deterrent to territorial disputes. They are not going to fight outside the Western Hemisphere, and outdated tanks and planes purchased abroad are quite suitable for fighting against partisan groups and drug mafia militants.
  7. luka095
    luka095 5 March 2013 23: 55
    Colleagues. Can anyone characterize the Paraguayan Armed Forces? This country is interesting in that in it in the 20-30s there were many Russian officers in the armed forces. They even won the war with one of the neighbors ...
    1. Nicotine 7
      Nicotine 7 6 March 2013 03: 27
      According to my friend, a retired Marine Corps officer, the state of the Argentine Armed Forces is such that even Paraguay is able to take over the whole country. By the way, our compatriots covered themselves with fame in that war in Bolivia, and the Germans led the military on the other side of the front.
  8. alkach555
    alkach555 6 March 2013 04: 41
    Media News2

    KARACAS, March 6. / Corr. ITAR-TASS Sergey Sereda. At the 59th year of his life, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez passed away. This was announced on Tuesday by the vice president of the republic Nicolas Maduro on all national television channels. However, if Chavez leaves (and the likelihood of such an outcome is increasing), massive purchases of weapons in Russia will end immediately, most likely, already acquired weapons will not be paid. I express my condolences, very sorry.