Published on December 3rd, 2018
Avibras Indústria Aeroespacial S/A is a Brazilian private company. The company is active in aerospace, defence and civil markets. It produces, among other things, space vehicles, cruise missiles and armoured vehicles.[i]
Avibras produces the ASTROS (Artillery Saturation Rocket System) type of rockets and has produced the ASTROS II. The ASTROS II has two types of rockets that both deliver 150-kilogram warheads, each containing 70 submunitions: the SS-60 and SS-80. ASTROS II rockets can also be equipped with a unitary high explosive warhead.[ii]
The ASTROS system is still available on the Avibras website at the time of writing (although the submunition warheads are not anymore) and in January 2018 the ASTROS system was presented at the Kuwait Aviation Show.[iii] It is unknown whether Avibras is still producing the ASTROS-fired SS-60 and SS-80 missiles with submunition warheads.[iv]
The Cluster Munition Monitor reports ASTROS-manufactured surface-to-surface rockets with submunition warheads were exported from Brazil to Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. It is not clear when the last exports have taken place.[v] Saudi Arabia has used the ASTROS cluster munitions rockets in Yemen on several occasions from 2015-2017, according to reports by Amnesty International[vi], Human Rights Watch[vii] and Armament Research Services (ARES).[viii]
The Cluster Munition Monitor notes that Avibras itself confirmed that it produced cluster munitions after 2008: “in 2010, a representative from Avibras said that the company generates US$60–70 million per year from cluster munitions and claimed that cluster bombs produced by Avibras have a failure rate of less than 1%”.[ix]On 9 March 2017, still according to the Monitor, “Avibras did not deny continued production, but claimed that since 2001, its ASTROS cluster munition rockets have been equipped with a “reliable self-destruct device that complies with humanitarian principles and legislation” of the Convention on Cluster Munitions”.[x]
Like the Cluster Munition Coalition we maintain, however, that at least some of its products are clearly cluster munitions as defined and prohibited by the CCM: “When equipped with a warhead containing submunitions the SS-60 or SS-80 rockets launched by the ASTROS system are banned by the Convention on Cluster Munitions”.[xi]
According to the CCM, munitions are not considered cluster munitions if they meet 5 cumulative criteria. The Avibras cluster munitions do not meet all of these 5 criteria. And whereas the submunitions in the Brazilian weapon might meet one of these criteria (they have a self-destruct mechanism but it is unclear if these are electronical), there is no evidence of any of the other exclusion criteria being met. With 70 submunitions, the permitted maximum of fewer than 10 is exceeded, we have information that mentions a weight per submunition between 1,8 and 2,5 kg (where 4 kg is the minimum to fall under the exception), nothing suggests that the submunitions are capable of attacking a single target and there is no evidence of a self-deactivating feature.[xii]
Under the ASTROS 2020 programme, Avibras is developing a new (version of the) ASTROS launcher, as well as several new missiles. Several sources note that one of these Avibras’ AV TM 300 missiles (also known as MTC 300 and nicknamed Matador) can also carry a cluster munition warhead.[xiii]
Avibras is considered a cluster munitions producer, based on the production of the submunitions carrying SS-60, SS-80 rockets after May 2008, the credible reports on the AV TM-300 and Avibras’ own statement in 2010 that it was involved in cluster munitions production.
Avibras has not refuted this information, has not responded to PAX’ requests for more information and has not stated publicly that it would stop producing cluster munitions.
 Article 2 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions reads (emphasis added): 2. “Cluster munition” means a conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions. It does not mean the following: (…)
(c) A munition that, in order to avoid indiscriminate area effects and the risks posed by unexploded submunitions, has all of the following characteristics: (i) Each munition contains fewer than ten explosive submunitions;
(ii) Each explosive submunition weighs more than four kilograms;
(iii) Each explosive submunition is designed to detect and engage a single target object;
(iv) Each explosive submunition is equipped with an electronic selfdestruction mechanism;
(v) Each explosive submunition is equipped with an electronic selfdeactivating feature.
[i] Avibras, “About us”, Avibras website (www.avibras.com.br/site/en/institutional/who-we-are.html), last viewed 9 April 2018.
[ii] Prazares, L., “Brasil dá incentivos fiscais para armamento banido pela ONU”, UOL Noticias International website (https://noticias.uol.com.br/internacional/ultimas-noticias/2014/09/12/brasil-da-incentivos-fiscais-para-armamento-banido-pela-onu.htm), 12 September 2014, last viewed 20 September 2018.
[iii] Avibras, “ASTROS – Artillery Saturation Rocket System for Area Saturation”, Avibras website (www.avibras.com.br/site/en/our-products-and-services/defence-system/astros.html), last viewed 20 September 2018;
Avibras, “ASTROS and Skyfire were especially highlighted at Kuwait Aviation Show”, Avibras website (www.avibras.com.br/site/en/media-en/news/247-astros-and-skyfire-were-highlighted-at-kuwait-aviation-show.html), 20 February 2018, last viewed 25 October 2018.
[iv] Caiafa, R., “Avibras reanuda el programa del misil de crucero brasileno”, Info Defensa website (www.infodefensa.com/latam/2018/03/28/noticia-avibras-reanuda-programa-misil-crucero-brasileno.html), 28 March 2018, last viewed 25 October 2018.
[v] Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, “Brazil: Cluster Munition Ban Policy”, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor website (www.the-monitor.org/en-gb/reports/2017/brazil/cluster-munition-ban-policy.aspx#ftn12), last updated 26 June 2018, last viewed 20 September 2018.
[vi] Amnesty International, “Yemen: Brazilian cluster munitions suspected in Saudi Arabia-led coalition attack,” 30 October 2015, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/10/yemen-brazilian-cluster-munitions-suspected-in-saudi-arabia-led-coalition-attack/, last viewed 20 September 2018, Amnesty International, “Fresh evidence of cluster bombs being used by Saudi coalition forces in Yemen”, https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/fresh-evidence-cluster-bombs-being-used-saudi-coalition-forces-yemen, last viewed 20 September 2018.
[vii] Human Rights Watch, “Technical Briefing Note: Cluster Munitions in Yemen,” February 2016, at https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/14/technical-briefing-note-cluster-munition-use-yemen, last viewed 20 September 2018, “Yemen: Brazil-Made Cluster Munitions Harm Civilians”, at https://www.hrw.org/print/298122, last viewed 20 September 2018.
[viii] Armament Research Services, “Brazilian SS-60 cargo rockets employed in Yemen”, 30 October 2015, ARES website (www.armamentresearch.com/brazilian-ss-60-or-ss-80-cargo-rockets-employed-in-yemen/), last viewed 10 April 2018.
[ix] Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, “Brazil: Cluster Munition Ban Policy”, last updated 26 June 2018, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor website (www.the-monitor.org/en-gb/reports/2017/brazil/cluster-munition-ban-policy.aspx#ftn12), last viewed 20 September 2018.
[x] Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, “Brazil: Cluster Munition Ban Policy”, last updated 26 June 2018, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor website (www.the-monitor.org/en-gb/reports/2017/brazil/cluster-munition-ban-policy.aspx#ftn12), last viewed 20 September 2018.
[xi] Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, “Brazil: Cluster Munition Ban Policy”, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor website (www.the-monitor.org/en-gb/reports/2018/brazil/cluster-munition-ban-policy.aspx#ftn12), last updated 26 June 2018, last viewed 20 September 2018.
[xii] M.Hiznay, “Subsidizing Brazil’s Production of Cluster Munitions”, 18 September 2014, Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog (https://landmineandclustermunitionblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/subsidizing-brazils-production-of-cluster-munitions), last viewed 20 September 2018.
[xiii] Defesa Aérea & Naval, “Avibras oferece Astros 2020 para a Colômbia”, 21 June 2013, Defesa Aérea & Naval website (http://www.defesaaereanaval.com.br/avibras-oferece-astros-2020-para-a-colombia/), last viewed 16 November 2018; Defensa Nacional y del Mundo, “AVIBRAS y Missil cruzero MT -0 Matador”, 27 September 2013, Defensa Nacional y del Mundo website (http://defensanacional.argentinaforo.net/t6910-avibras-y-missil-cruzero-mt-0-matador, last viewed 16 November 2018; Defence Blog, “Brazil’s cruise missile development program enters final phase”, 28 March 2018, Defence Blog website (http://defence-blog.com/news/brazils-cruise-missile-development-program-enters-final-phase.html), last viewed 16 November 2018.