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Brazilian Military System Put to Civilian Uses

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MANAUS, Brazil, March 11, 2004 – How about this for an air tasking order: Design an information and telecommunications set-up that protects 52 million square kilometers of territory. Put in it a data management system and a data bank that will allow people to track more than 2 million species of plants and animals. Finally, it is not to be solely a military tool, but one that many different civilian agencies will use as well.

Brazilian air force Maj. Gen. Ramon Borges Cardoso did not receive exactly that air tasking order in 1997, but that was his mission as the man in charge of putting together the Amazon Surveillance and Vigilance System.

Ramon briefed Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers on the system. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman is visiting Brazil to strengthen military-to-military relations.

The system known throughout Brazil by the Portuguese acronym SIVAM will be operational by the end the year. It amalgamates data from a number of different sources; airborne radars, land-based fixed radar stations, mobile radar sites and satellite information all feed into the system. U.S. defense contractor Raytheon designed the system. It has cost Brazil $1.5 billion.

Weather data from land, river and air also is fed into the system. More than 700 ground stations will allow scientists to feed information into the system.

SIVAM will cover the Amazon. It will help Brazil control its borders and tie the far-flung country together, Ramon said during an interview. Amazonia is the largest state in Brazil. It is more than half the size of the continental United States, but its population is only 3.2 million. About 350,000 members of Indian tribes live in the region. Many of those tribes are in extremely inaccessible areas and have had no contact with outside civilizations.

"There are only two ways to go in the Amazon region: by the river or by air," Ramon said. While it is a huge area, it has fewer miles of road that the state of Maine.

Linking the people of the area is important to Brazil. Officials estimate there is more than $3.3 trillion worth of resources in the region. The area needs protection, too, the general said. Just on its own, the Amazon is a precious resource. It represents more than one-third of the tropical rain forest left in the world.

SIVAM was built by the Brazilian air force, and the system does provide significant military capabilities. It will provide radar coverage over much of the border area. Traffickers are using Brazilian airspace and sometimes landing strips to smuggle drugs, money and weapons. The system would allow the military to keep better tabs on the comings and goings in the region. It also will help in search and rescue missions in the remote areas of the country.

The system would give decision-makers in the capital of Brazilia or in three regional centers an invaluable military tool.

But it's not the military aspect that makes the system unique there are after all, many different radar systems in the world. What is unique is the way the Brazilians have adapted SIVAM into the Amazon Protection System.

This system looks to protect the people and resources of the region and help establish wise land management and use regimens. The system is concerned with deforestation, contacts with indigenous peoples, communications and providing government services over a wide swath of Brazil. The data bank Ramon is working on will contain information on the flora and fauna of the Amazon River basin the largest in the world.

The scientific information includes weather conditions, river water levels at various places, lightning strike information, condition of the ground cover and much more. Scientists on the ground can use terminals to input data. Government agencies will make the information available to the world on the Internet, Ramon said.

The system will give medical experts the chance to practice telemedicine. "They will be able to use the system to contact the best experts in whatever confronts them," Ramon said.

U.S. officials said the system is an ambitious undertaking that will fill a gap in Brazil's defenses. The Brazilian design of the system is world-class, they said, and the way it has grown and adapted fits the needs of the country and the world.

Contact Author

Gen. Richard B. Myers

Related Sites:
Joint Chiefs of Staff
State Department Background Notes on Brazil

Related Articles:
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